THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
THIS book, in which St. Luke records the actions of the apostles,
particularly of St. Peter and St. Paul, (whose companion in travel
he was,) is as it were the center between the Gospel and the
Epistles. It contains, after a very brief re-capitulation of the
evangelical history, a continuation of the history of Christ, the
event of his predictions, and a kind of supplement to what he had
before spoken to his disciples, by the Holy Ghost now given unto
them. It contains also the seeds, and first stamina of all those
things, which are enlarged upon in the epistles. The Gospels treat
of Christ the head. The Acts show that the same things befell his
body; which is animated by his Spirit, persecuted by the world,
defended and exalted by God. In this book is shown the Christian
doctrine, and the method of applying it to Jews, heathens, and
believers; that is, to those who are to be converted, and those who
are converted: the hindrances of it in particular men, in several
kinds of men, in different ranks and nations: the propagation of
the Gospel, and that grand revolution among both Jews and
heathens: the victory thereof, in Spite of all opposition, from all
the power, malice, and wisdom of the whole world, spreading
from one chamber into temples, houses, streets, markets, fields,
inns, prisons, camps, courts, chariots, ships, villages, cities,
islands: to Jews, heathens, magistrates, generals, soldiers,
eunuchs, captives, slaves, women, children, sailors: to Athens,
and at length to Rome.
THE PARTS OF IT ARE SEVEN
1. Pentecost, with its antecedents Chap. i-ii
2. Transactions w/the Jews, in Jerusalem, in all Judea, and in
3. Transactions at Cesarea, and the reception of the Gentiles x-xi
4. The first course of Barnabas and Paul among the Gentiles xiii-
5. The embassy to, and council at Jerusalem: liberty of the
6. The second course of St. Paul xvi-xix
7. His third, as far as Rom. xix-xxviii
1. The former treatise - In that important season which reached
from the resurrection of Christ to his ascension, the former treatise
ends, and this begins: this describing the Acts of the Holy Ghost,
(by the apostles,) as that does the acts of Jesus Christ. Of all
things - In a summary manner: which Jesus began to do - until the
day - That is, of all things which Jesus did from the beginning till
2. After having given commandment - In the 3rd verse St. Luke
expresses in general terms what Christ said to his apostles during
those forty days. But in the 4th and following verses he declares
what he said on the day of his ascension. He had brought his
former account down to that day; and from that day begins the
Acts of the Apostles.
3. Being seen by them forty days - That is, many times during that
space. And speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of
God - Which was the sum of all his discourses with them before
his passion also.
4. Wait for the promise of the Father, which ye have heard from
me - When he was with them a little before, as it is recorded,
Luke xxiv, 49.
5. Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost - And so are all true
believers to the end of the world. But the extraordinary gifts of the
Holy Ghost also are here promised.
6. Dost thou at this time - At the time thou now speakest of? not
many days hence? restore the kingdom to Israel? - They still
seemed to dream of an outward, temporal kingdom, in which the
Jews should have dominion over all nations. It seems they came
in a body, having before concerted the design, to ask when this
kingdom would come.
7. The times or the seasons - Times, in the language of the
Scriptures, denote a longer; seasons, a shorter space. Which the
Father hath put in his own power - To be revealed when and to
whom it pleaseth him.
8. But ye shall receive power - and shall be witnesses to me - That
is, ye shall be empowered to witness my Gospel, both by your
preaching and suffering.
12. A Sabbath-day's journey - The Jews generally fix this to two
thousand cubits, which is not a mile.
13. They went up into the upper room - The upper rooms, so
frequently mentioned in Scripture, were chambers in the highest
part of the house, set apart by the Jews for private prayer. These,
on account of their being so retired and convenient, the apostles
now used for all the offices of religion. Matt. x, 2; Mark iii, 14;
Luke vi, 13.
14. His brethren - His near kinsmen, who for some time did not
believe; it seems not till near his death.
15. The number of persons together - Who were together in the
upper room. were a hundred and twenty - But he had undoubtedly
many more in other places; of whom more than five hundred saw
him at once after his resurrection, 1 Cor. xv, 6.
16. Psalm xli, 9.
18. This man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity - That
is, a field was purchased with the reward of his iniquity; though
very possibly Judas might design the purchase. And falling down
on his face - It seems the rope broke before, or as he died.
19. In their own tongue - This expression, That is, the field of
blood, St. Luke seems to have added to the words of St. Peter, for
the use of Theophilus and other readers who did not understand
20. His bishopric - That is, his apostleship. Psalm lxix, 25.
21. All the time that the Lord Jesus was going in and out - That is,
conversing familiarly: over us - as our Master. Psalm cix, 8.
22. To be a witness with us of his resurrection - And of the
circumstances which preceded and followed it.
23. And they appointed two - So far the faithful could go by
consulting together, but no further. Therefore here commenced
the proper use of the lot, whereby a matter of importance, which
cannot be determined by any ordinary method, is committed to the
25. Fell - By his transgression - Some time before his death: to go
to his own place - That which his crimes had deserved, and which
he had chosen for himself, far from the other apostles, in the
region of death.
1. At the pentecost of Sinai, in the Old Testament, and the
pentecost of Jerusalem, in the New, where the two grand
manifestations of God, the legal and the evangelical; the one from
the mountain, and the other from heaven; the terrible, and the
merciful one. They were all with one accord in one place - So
here was a conjunction of company, minds, and place; the whole
hundred and twenty being present.
2. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven - So will the
Son of man come to judgment. And it filled all the house - That is,
all that part of the temple where they were sitting.
3. And there appeared distinct tongues, as of fire - That is, small
flames of fire. This is all which the phrase, tongues of fire, means
in the language of the seventy. Yet it might intimate God's
touching their tongues as it were (together with their hearts) with
Divine fire: his giving them such words as were active and
penetrating, even as flaming fire.
4. And they began to speak with other tongues - The miracle was
not in the ears of the hearers, (as some have unaccountably
supposed,) but in the mouth of the speakers. And this family
praising God together, with the tongues of all the world, was an
earnest that the whole world should in due time praise God in
their various tongues. As the Spirit gave them utterance - Moses,
the type of the law, was of a slow tongue; but the Gospel speaks
with a fiery and flaming one.
5. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews - Gathered from all
parts by the peculiar providence of God.
6. The multitude came together, and were confounded - The
motions of their minds were swift and various.
9. Judea - The dialect of which greatly differed from that of
Galilee. Asia - The country strictly so called.
10. Roman sojourners - Born at Rome, but now living at
Jerusalem. These seem to have come to Jerusalem after those who
are above mentioned. All of them were partly Jews by birth, and
11. Cretans - One island seems to be mentioned for all. The
wonderful works of God - Probably those which related to the
miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, together
with the effusion of his Spirit, as a fulfilment of his promises, and
the glorious dispensations of Gospel grace.
12. They were all amazed - All the devout men.
13. But others mocking - The world begins with mocking, thence
proceeds to cavilling, chap. iv, 7; to threats, iv, 17; to imprisoning,
chap. v, 18; blows, v, 40; to slaughter, chap. vii, 58. These
mockers appear to have been some of the natives of Judea, and
inhabitants of Jerusalem, (who understood only the dialect of the
country,) by the apostle's immediately directing his discourse to
them in the next verse. They are full of sweet wine - So the Greek
word properly signifies. There was no new wine so early in the
year as pentecost. Thus natural men are wont to ascribe
supernatural things to mere natural causes; and many times as
impudently and unskilfully as in the present case.
14. Then Peter standing up - All the gestures, all the words of
Peter, show the utmost sobriety; lifted up his voice - With
cheerfulness and boldness; and said to them - This discourse has
three parts; each of which, ver. 14, 22, 29, begins with the same
appellation, men: only to the last part he prefixes with more
familiarity the additional word brethren. Men of Judea - That is,
ye that are born in Judea. St. Peter spoke in Hebrew, which they
15. It is but the third hour of the day - That is, nine in the
morning. And on the solemn festivals the Jews rarely ate or drank
any thing till noon.
16. But this is that which was spoken of by the prophet - But there
is another and better way of accounting for this. Joel ii, 28
17. The times of the Messiah are frequently called the last days,
the Gospel being the last dispensation of Divine grace. I will pour
out of my Spirit - Not on the day of pentecost only, upon all flesh
- On persons of every age, sex, and rank. And your young men
shall see visions - In young men the outward sense, are most
vigourous, and the bodily strength is entire, whereby they are best
qualified to sustain the shock which usually attends the visions of
God. In old men the internal senses are most vigourous, suited to
divine dreams. Not that the old are wholly excluded from the
former, nor the young from the latter.
18. And upon my servants - On those who are literally in a state of
19. And I will show prodigies in heaven above, and signs on earth
beneath - Great Revelations of grace are usually attended with
great judgments on those who reject it. In heaven - Treated of,
ver. 20. On earth - Described in this verse. Such signs were those
mentioned, ver. 22, before the passion of Christ; which are so
mentioned as to include also those at the very time of the passion
and resurrection, at the destruction of Jerusalem, and at the end of
the world. Terrible indeed were those prodigies in particular
which preceded the destruction of Jerusalem: such as the flaming
sword hanging over the city, and the fiery comet pointing down
upon it for a year; the light that shone upon the temple and the
altar in the night, as if it had been noon-day; the opening of the
great and heavy gate of the temple without hands; the voice heard
from the most holy place, Let us depart hence; the admonition of
Jesus the son of Ananus, crying for seven years together, Wo, wo,
wo; the vision of contending armies in the air, and of
entrenchments thrown up against a city there represented; the
terrible thunders and lightnings, and dreadful earthquakes, which
every one considered as portending some great evil: all which,
through the singular providence of God, are particularly recorded
by Josephus. Blood - War and slaughter. Fire - Burnings of houses
and towns, involving all in clouds of smoke.
20. The moon shall be turned into blood - A bloody colour: before
the day of the Lord - Eminently the last day; though not excluding
any other day or season, wherein the Lord shall manifest his
glory, in taking vengeance of his adversaries.
21. But - whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord - This
expression implies the whole of religion, and particularly prayer
uttered in faith; shall be saved - From all those plagues; from sin
23. Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and
foreknowledge of God - The apostle here anticipates an objection,
Why did God suffer such a person to be so treated? Did he not
know what wicked men intended to do? And had he not power to
prevent it? Yea. He knew all that those wicked men intended to
do. And he had power to blast all their designs in a moment. But
he did not exert that power, because he so loved the world!
Because it was the determined counsel of his love, to redeem
mankind from eternal death, by the death of his only-begotten
24. Having loosed the pains of death - The word properly means,
the pains of a woman in travail. As it was not possible that he
should be held under it - Because the Scripture must needs be
25. Psalm xvi, 8.
27. Thou wilt not leave my soul in hades - The invisible world.
But it does not appear, that ever our Lord went into hell. His soul,
when it was separated from the body, did not go thither, but to
paradise, Luke xxiii, 43. The meaning is, Thou wilt not leave my
soul in its separate state, nor suffer my body to be corrupted.
28. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life - That is, Thou
hast raised me from the dead. Thou wilt fill me with joy by thy
countenance - When I ascend to thy right hand.
29. The patriarch - A more honourable title than king.
30. Psalm lxxxix, 4, &c.
32. He foreseeing this, spake of the resurrection Of Christ - St.
Peter argues thus: It is plain, David did not speak this of himself.
Therefore he spake of Christ's rising. But how does that promise
of a kingdom imply his resurrection? Because he did not receive it
before he died, and because his kingdom was to endure for ever, 2
Sam. vii, 13.
33. Being exalted by the right hand of God - By the right hand;
that is, the mighty power of God. Our Lord was exalted at his
ascension to God's right hand in heaven.
34. Sit thou on my right hand - In this and the following verse is
an allusion to two ancient customs; one, to the highest honour that
used to be paid to persons by placing them on the right hand, as
Solomon did Bathsheba, when sitting on his throne, 1 Kings ii,
19; and the other, to the custom of conquerors, who used to tread
on the necks of their vanquished enemies, as a token of their
entire victory and triumph over them.
35. Until I make thine enemies thy footstool - This text is here
quoted with the greatest address, as suggesting in the words of
David, their great prophetic monarch, how certain their own ruin
must be, if they went on to oppose Christ. Psalm cx, 1.
36. Lord - Jesus, after his exaltation, is constantly meant by this
word in the New Testament, unless sometimes where it occurs, in
a text quoted from the Old Testament.
37. They said to the apostles, Brethren - They did not style them
38. Repent - And hereby return to God: be baptized - Believing in
the name of Jesus - And ye shall receive the gift of the Holy
Ghost - See the three-one God clearly proved. See chap. xxvi, 20.
The gift of the Holy Ghost does not mean in this place the power
of speaking with tongues. For the promise of this was not given to
all that were afar off, in distant ages and nations. But rather the
constant fruits of faith, even righteousness, and peace, and joy in
the Holy Ghost. Whomsoever the Lord our God shall call -
(Whether they are Jews or Gentiles) by his word and by his Spirit:
and who are not disobedient to the heavenly calling. But it is
observable St. Peter did not yet understand the very words he
40. And with many other words did he testify and exhort - In such
an accepted time we should add line upon line, and not leave off,
till the thing is done. Save yourselves from this perverse
generation - Many of whom were probably mocking still.
41. And there were added - To the hundred and twenty.
42. And they continued steadfast - So their daily Church
communion consisted in these four particulars:
1. Hearing the word;
2. Having all things common;
3. Receiving the Lord's Supper;
4. Prayer. Ye diff'rent sects, who all declare, Lo here is Christ,
and Christ is there; Your stronger proofs divinely give, And show
me where the Christians live!
43. And fear came upon every soul - Of those who did not join
with them: whereby persecution was prevented, till it was needful
45. And sold their possessions - Their lands and houses; and
goods - Their movables. And parted them to all as any one had
need - To say the Christians did this only till the destruction of
Jerusalem, is not true; for many did it long after. Not that there
was any positive command for so doing: it needed not; for love
constrained them. It was a natural fruit of that love wherewith
each member of the community loved every other as his own soul.
And if the whole Christian Church had continued in this spirit,
this usage must have continued through all ages. To affirm
therefore that Christ did not design it should continue, is neither
more nor less than to affirm, that Christ did not design this
measure of love should continue. I see no proof of this.
46. Continuing daily - breaking the bread - in the Lord's Supper,
as did many Churches for some ages. They partook of their food
with gladness and singleness of heart - They carried the same
happy and holy temper through all their common actions: eating
and working with the same spirit wherewith they prayed and
received the Lord's Supper.
47. The Lord added daily such as were saved - From their sins:
from the guilt and power of them.
1. The ninth hour - The Jews divided the time from sunrise to
sunset into twelve hours; which were consequently of unequal
length at different times of the year, as the days were longer or
shorter. The third hour therefore was nine in the morning; the
ninth, three in the afternoon; but not exactly. For the third hour
was the middle space between sunrise and noon; which, if the sun
rose at five, (the earliest hour of its rising in that climate,) was
half an hour after eight: if at seven (the latest hour of its rising
there) was half an hour after nine. The chief hours of prayer were
the third and ninth; at which seasons the morning and evening
sacrifices were offered, and incense (a kind of emblem
representing prayer) burnt on the golden altar.
2. At the gate of the temple, called Beautiful - This gate was
added by Herod the Great, between the court of the Gentiles and
that of Israel. It was thirty cubits high, and fifteen broad, and
made of Corinthian brass, more pompous in its workmanship and
splendour than those that were covered with silver and gold.
6. Then said Peter, Silver and gold have I none - How unlike his
supposed successor! Can the bishop of Rome either say or do the
12. Peter answered the people - Who were running together, and
inquiring into the circumstances of the fact.
13. The God of our fathers - This was wisely introduced in the
beginning of his discourse, that it might appear they taught no
new religion, inconsistent with that of Moses, and were far from
having the least design to divert their regards from the God of
Israel. Hath glorified his Son - By this miracle, whom ye
delivered up - When God had given him to you, and when ye
ought to have received him as a most precious treasure, and to
have preserved him with all your power.
14. Ye renounced the Holy One - Whom God had marked out as
such; and the Just One - Even in the judgment of Pilate.
16. His name - Himself: his power and love. The faith which is by
him - Of which he is the giver, as well as the object.
17. And now, brethren - A word full of courtesy and compassion,
I know - He speaks to their heart, that through ignorance ye did it
- which lessened, though it could not take away, the guilt. As did
also your rulers - The prejudice lying from the authority of the
chief priests and elders, he here removes, but with great
tenderness. He does not call them our, but your rulers. For as the
Jewish dispensation ceased at the death of Christ, consequently so
did the authority of its rulers.
18. But God - Who was not ignorant, permitted this which he had
foretold, to bring good out of it.
19. Be converted - Be turned from sin and Satan unto God. See
chap. xxvi, 20. But this term, so common in modern writings,
very rarely occurs in Scripture: perhaps not once in the sense we
now use it, for an entire change from vice to holiness. That the
times of refreshing - Wherein God largely bestows his refreshing
grace, may come - To you also. To others they will assuredly
come, whether ye repent or no.
20. And he may send - The apostles generally speak of our Lord's
second coming, as being just at hand. Who was before appointed -
Before the foundation of the world.
21. Till the times of the restitution of all things - The apostle here
comprises at once the whole course of the times of the New
Testament, between our Lord's ascension and his coming in glory.
The most eminent of these are the apostolic age, and that of the
spotless Church, which will consist of all the Jews and Gentiles
united, after all persecutions and apostacies are at an end.
22. The Lord shall raise you up a prophet like unto me - And that
in many particulars. Moses instituted the Jewish Church: Christ
instituted the Christian. With the prophesying of Moses was soon
joined the effect, the deliverance of Israel from Egypt: with the
prophesying of Christ that grand effect, the deliverance of his
people from sin and death. Those who could not bear the voice of
God, yet desired to hear that of Moses. Much more do those who
are wearied with the law, desire to hear the voice of Christ. Moses
spake to the people all, and only those things, which God had
commanded him: so did Christ. But though he was like Moses, yet
he was infinitely superior to him, in person, as well as in office.
Deut. xviii, 15.
23. Every soul who will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed
from among the people - One cannot imagine a more masterly
address than this, to warn the Jews of the dreadful consequence of
their infidelity, in the very words of their favourite prophet, out of
a pretended zeal for whom they rejected Christ.
24. These days - The days of the Messiah.
25. Ye are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant - That in,
heirs of the prophecies. To you properly, as the first heirs, belong
the prophecies and the covenant. Gen. xii, 3.
26. To bless you, by turning you from your iniquities - Which is
the great Gospel blessing.
1. And as they were speaking to the people, the priests - came
upon them - So wisely did God order, that they should first bear a
full testimony to the truth in the temple, and then in the great
council; to which they could have had no access, had they not
been brought before it as criminals.
2. The priests being grieved - That the name of Jesus was
preached to the people; especially they were offended at the
doctrine of his resurrection; for as they had put him to death, his
rising again proved him to be the Just One, and so brought his
blood upon their heads. The priests were grieved, lest their office
and temple services should decline, and Christianity take root,
through the preaching of the apostles, and their power of working
miracles: the captain of the temple - Being concerned to prevent
all sedition and disorder, the Sadducees - Being displeased at the
overturning of all their doctrines, particularly with regard to the
4. The number of the men - Beside women and children, were
about five thousand - So many did our Lord now feed at once with
the bread from heaven!
5. Rulers, and elders, and scribes - Who were eminent for power,
for wisdom, and for learning.
6. Annas, who had been the high priest, and Caiaphas, who was so
7. By what name - By what authority, have ye done this? - They
seem to speak ambiguously on purpose.
8. Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost - That moment. God
moves his instruments, not when they please, but just when he
sees it needful. Ye rulers - He gives them the honour due to their
10. Be it known to you all - Probably the herald of God
proclaimed this with a loud voice. Whom God hath raised from
the dead - They knew in their own consciences that it was so. And
though they had hired the soldiers to tell a most senseless and
incredible tale to the contrary, Matt. xxviii, 12, 15, yet it is
observable, they did not, so far as we can learn, dare to plead it
before Peter and John.
11. Psalm cxviii, 22.
12. There is no other name whereby we must be saved - The
apostle uses a beautiful gradation, from the temporal deliverance
which had been wrought for the poor cripple, by the power of
Christ, to that of a much nobler and more important kind, which is
wrought by Christ for impotent and sinful souls. He therein
follows the admirable custom of his great Lord and Master, who
continually took occasion from earthly to speak of spiritual things.
13. Illiterate and uneducated men - Even by such men (though not
by such only) hath God in all ages caused his word to be preached
before the world.
17. Yet that it spread no farther - For they look upon it as a mere
gangrene. So do all the world upon genuine Christianity. Let us
severely threaten them - Great men, ye do nothing. They have a
greater than you to flee to.
18. They charged them not to speak - Privately; nor teach -
19. Whether it be just to obey you rather than God, judge ye -
Was it not by the same spirit, that Socrates, when they were
condemning him to death, for teaching the people, said, "O ye
Athenians, I embrace and love you; but I will obey God rather
than you. And if you would spare my life on condition I should
cease to teach my fellow citizens, I would die a thousand times
rather than accept the proposal."
21. They all glorified God - So much wiser were the people than
those who were over them.
24. The sense is, Lord, thou hast all power. And thy word is
fulfilled. Men do rage against thee: but it is in vain.
25. Psalm ii, 1.
27. Whom thou hast anointed - To be king of Israel.
28. The sense is, but they could do no more than thou wast
pleased to permit, according to thy determinate counsel, to save
mankind by the sufferings of thy Son. And what was needful for
this end, thou didst before determine to permit to be done.
30. Thou stretchest forth thy hand - Exertest thy power.
31. They were all filled - Afresh; and spake the word with
boldness - So their petition was granted.
32. And the multitude of them that believed - Every individual
person were of one heart and one soul - Their love, their hopes,
their passions joined: and not so much as one - In so great a
multitude: this was a necessary consequence of that union of
heart; said that aught of the things which he had was his own - It
is impossible any one should, while all were of one soul. So long
as that truly Christian love continued, they could not but have all
33. And great grace - A large measure of the inward power of the
Holy Ghost, was upon them all - Directing all their thoughts,
words, and actions.
34. For neither was there any one among them that wanted - We
may observe, this is added as the proof that great grace was upon
them all. And it was the immediate, necessary consequence of it:
yea, and must be to the end of the world. In all ages and nations,
the same cause, the same degree of grace, could not but in like
circumstances produce the same effect. For whosoever were
possessors of houses and lands sold them - Not that there was any
particular command for this; but there was great grace and great
love: of which this was the natural fruit.
35. And distribution was made - At first by the apostles
themselves, afterward by them whom they appointed.
36. A son of consolation - Not only on account of his so largely
assisting the poor with his fortune; but also of those peculiar gifts
of the Spirit, whereby he was so well qualified both to comfort
and to exhort.
37. Having an estate - Probably of considerable value. It is not
unlikely that it was in Cyprus. Being a Levite, he had no portion,
no distinct inheritance in Israel.
1. But a certain man named Ananias - It is certain, not a believer,
for all that believed were of one heart and of one soul: probably
not baptized; but intending now to offer himself for baptism.
2. And bringing a certain part - As if it had been the whole:
perhaps saying it was so.
3. To lie to the Holy Ghost - Who is in us. And to keep back -
Here was the first instance of it. This was the first attempt to bring
propriety of goods into the Christian Church.
4. While it remained, did it not remain thine? - It is true,
whosoever among the Christians (not one excepted) had houses or
lands, sold them, and laid the price at the feet of the apostles. But
it was in his own choice to be a Christian or not: and consequently
either to sell his land, or keep it. And when it was sold, was it not
in thy power? - For it does not appear that he professed himself a
Christian when he sold it. Why hast thou conceived this thing in
thy heart? - So profanely to dissemble on so solemn an occasion?
Thou hast not lied to men only, but to God also. Hence the
Godhead of the Holy Ghost evidently appears: since lying to him,
ver. 3, is lying to God.
5. And Ananias fell down and expired - And this severity was not
only just, considering that complication of vain glory,
covetousness, fraud, and impiety, which this action contained: but
it was also wise and gracious, as it would effectually deter any
others from following his example. It was likewise a convincing
proof of the upright conduct of the apostles, in managing the sums
with which they were intrusted; and in general of their Divine
mission. For none can imagine that Peter would have had the
assurance to pronounce, and much less the power to execute such
a sentence, if he had been guilty himself of a fraud of the same
kind; or had been belying the Holy Ghost in the whole of his
pretensions to be under his immediate direction.
7. About the space of three hours - How precious a space! The
woman had a longer time for repentance.
8. If ye sold the land for so much - Naming the sum.
10. The Church - This is the first time it is mentioned: and here is
a native specimen of a New Testament Church; which is a
company of men, called by the Gospel, grafted into Christ by
baptism, animated by love, united by all kind of fellowship, and
disciplined by the death of Ananias and Sapphira.
12. And they were all - All the believers.
13. None of the rest - No formalists or hypocrites, durst join
themselves - In an outward show only, like Ananias and Sapphira.
14. But so much the more were true believers added, because
unbelievers kept at a distance.
17. The high priest - and the sect of the Sadducees - A goodly
company for the priest! He, and these deniers of any angel or
resurrection, were filled with zeal - Angry, bitter, persecuting
20. The words of this - That is, these words of life: words which
show the way to life everlasting.
23. We found the prison shut - The angel probably had shut the
24. They doubted what this should be - They were even at their
wits' end. The world, in persecuting the children of God, entangle
themselves in numberless difficulties.
28. Did not we strictly command you, not to teach? - See the poor
cunning of the enemies of the Gospel. They make laws and
interdicts at their pleasure, which those who obey God cannot but
break; and then take occasion thereby to censure and punish the
innocent, as guilty. Ye would bring the blood of this man upon us
- An artful and invidious word. The apostles did not desire to
accuse any man. They simply declared the naked truth.
29. Then Peter - In the name of all the apostles, said - He does not
now give them the titles of honour, which he did before, chap. iv,
8; but enters directly upon the subject, and justifies what he had
done. This is, as it were, a continuation of that discourse, but with
an increase of severity.
30. Hath raised up Jesus - Of the seed of David, according to the
promises made to our fathers.
31. Him hath God exalted - From the grave to heaven; to give
repentance - Whereby Jesus is received as a Prince; and
forgiveness of sins - Whereby he is received as a saviour. Hence
some infer, that repentance and faith are as mere gifts as
remission of sins. Not so: for man co-operates in the former, but
not in the latter. God alone forgives sins.
32. And also the Holy Ghost - A much greater witness.
34. But a certain Pharisee - And as such believing the resurrection
of the dead; a doctor, or teacher of the law - That is, a scribe, and
indeed one of the highest rank; had in honour by all the people -
Except the Sadducees; rising up in the council - So God can raise
defenders of his servants, whensoever and wheresoever he
36. Before these days - He prudently mentions the facts first, and
then makes the inference.
38. Let them alone - In a cause which is manifestly good, we
should immediately join. In a cause, on the other hand, which is
manifestly evil, we should immediately oppose. But in a sudden,
new, doubtful occurrence, this advice is eminently useful. If this
counsel or this work - He seems to correct himself, as if it were
some sudden work, rather than a counsel or design. And so it was.
For the apostles had no counsel, plan, or design of their own; but
were mere instruments in the hand of God, working just as he led
them from day to day.
41. Rejoicing - to suffer shame - This is a sure mark of the truth,
joy in affliction, such is true, deep, pure.
1. There arose a murmuring - Here was the first breach made on
those who were before of one heart and of one soul. Partiality
crept in unawares on some; and murmuring on others. Ah Lord!
how short a time did pure, genuine, undefiled Christianity remain
in the world! O the depth! How unsearchable are thy counsels!
marvelous are thy ways, O King of saints! The Hellenists were
Jews born out of Palestine. They were so called, because they
used the Greek as their in other tongue. In this partiality of the
Hebrews, and murmuring of the Hellenists, were the needs of a
general persecution sown. Did God ever, in any age or country,
withdraw his restraining providence, and let loose the world upon
the Christians, till there was a cause among themselves? Is not an
open, general persecution, always both penal and medicinal? A
punishment of those that will not accept of milder reproofs, as
well as a medicine to heal their sickness? And at the same time a
means both of purifying and strengthening those whose heart is
still right with God.
2. It is not right that we should leave the word of God and serve
tables - In the first Church, the primary business of apostles,
evangelists, and bishops, was to preach the word of God; the
secondary, to take a kind of paternal care (the Church being then
like a family,) for the food, especially of the poor, the strangers,
and the widows. Afterward, the deacons of both sexes were
constituted for this latter business. And whatever time they had to
spare from this, they employed in works of spiritual mercy. But
their proper office was, to take care of the poor. And when some
of them afterward preached the Gospel, they did this not by virtue
of their deaconship, but of another commission, that of
evangelists, which they probably received, not before, but after
they were appointed deacons. And it is not unlikely that others
were chosen deacons, or stewards, in their room, when any of
these commenced evangelists.
3. Of good report - That there may be no room to suspect them of
partiality or injustice. Full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom - For it
is not a light matter to dispense even the temporal goods of the
Church. To do even this well, a large measure both of the gifts
and grace of God is requisite. Whom we will set over this
business - It would have been happy for the Church, had its
ordinary ministers in every age taken the same care to act in
concert with the people committed to their charge, which the
apostles themselves, extraordinary as their office was, did on this
and other occasions.
4. We will constantly attend to prayer, and to the ministry of the
word - This is doubtless the proper business of a Christian bishop:
to speak to God in prayer; to men in preaching his word, as an
ambassador for Christ.
5. And they chose - It seems seven Hellenists, as their names
show. And Nicholas a proselyte - To whom the proselytes would
the more readily apply.
7. And the word of God grew - The hindrances being removed.
9. There arose certain of the synagogue which is called - It was
one and the same synagogue which consisted of these several
nations. Saul of Cilicia was doubtless a member of it; whence it is
not at all improbable, that Gamaliel presided over it. Libertines -
So they were styled, whose fathers were once slaves, and
afterward made free. This was the ease of many Jews who had
been taken captive by the Romans.
14. We have heard him say - So they might. But yet the
consequence they drew would not follow.
15. As the face of an angel - Covered with supernatural lustre.
They reckoned his preaching of Jesus to be the Christ was
destroying Moses and the law; and God bears witness to him, with
the same glory as he did to Moses, when he gave the law by him.
2. And he said - St. Stephen had been accused of blasphemy
against Moses, and even against God; and of speaking against the
temple and the law, threatening that Jesus would destroy the one,
and change the other. In answer to this accusation, rehearsing as it
were the articles of his historical creed, he speaks of God with
high reverence, and a grateful sense of a long series of acts of
goodness to the Israelites, and of Moses with great respect, on
account of his important and honourable employments under God:
of the temple with regard, as being built to the honour of God; yet
not with such superstition as the Jews; putting them in mind, that
no temple could comprehend God. And he was going on, no
doubt, when he was interrupted by their clamour, to speak to the
last point, the destruction of the temple, and the change of the law
by Christ. Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken - The sum of his
discourse is this: I acknowledge the glory of God revealed to the
fathers, ver. 2; the calling of Moses, ver. 34, &c.; the dignity of
the law, verses 8, 38, 44; the holiness of this place, verses 7, 45,
47. And indeed the law is more ancient than the temple; the
promise more ancient than the law. For God showed himself the
God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their children freely, ver. 2,
&c.; 9, &c.; 17,&c.; 32, 34, 35; and they showed faith and
obedience to God, ver. 4, 20, &c., 23, particularly by their regard
for the law, ver. 8, and the promised land, ver. 16. Meantime, God
never confined his presence to this one place or to the observers
of the law. For he hath been acceptably worshipped before the law
was given, or the temple built, and out of this land, ver. 2, 9, 33,
44. And that our fathers and their posterity were not tied down to
this land, their various sojournings, ver. 4, &c.; 14, 29, 44, and
exile, ver. 43, show. But you and your fathers have always been
evil, ver. 9; have withstood Moses, ver. 25, &c., 39, &c.; have
despised the land, ver. 39, forsaken God, ver. 40, &c.,
superstitiously honoured the temple, ver. 48, resisted God and his
Spirit, ver 50, killed the prophets and the Messiah himself, ver.
51, and kept not the law for which ye contend, ver. 53. Therefore
God is not bound to you; much less to you alone. And truly this
solemn testimony of Stephen is most worthy of his character, as a
man full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith and power: in which,
though he does not advance so many regular propositions,
contradictory to those of his adversaries, yet he closely and
nervously answers them all. Nor can we doubt but he would, from
these premises, have drawn inferences touching the destruction of
the temple, the abrogation of the Mosaic law, the punishment of
that rebellious people; and above all, touching Jesus of Nazareth,
the true Messiah, had not his discourse been interrupted by the
clamours of the multitude, stopping their ears, and rushing upon
him. Men, brethren, and fathers - All who are here present,
whether ye are my equals in years, or of more advanced age. The
word which in this and in many other places is rendered men is a
mere expletive. The God of glory - The glorious God, appeared to
Abraham before he dwelt in Haran - Therefore Abraham knew
God, long before he was in this land. Gen. xii, 1.
3. Which I will show thee - Abraham knew not where he went.
4. After his father was dead - While Terah lived, Abraham lived
partly with him, partly in Canaan: but after he died, altogether in
5. No, not to set his foot on - For the field mentioned, ver. 16, he
did not receive by a Divine donation, but bought it; even thereby
showing that he was a stranger in the land.
6. Gen. xv, 13.
7. They shall serve me - Not the Egyptians.
8. And so he begat Isaac - After the covenant was given, of which
circumcision was the seal. Gen. xvii, 10.
9. But God was with him - Though he was not in this land. Gen.
12. Sent our fathers first - Without Benjamin.
14. Seventy-five souls - So the seventy interpreters, (whom St.
Stephen follows,) one son and a grandson of Manasseh, and three
children of Ephraim, being added to the seventy persons
mentioned Gen. xlvi, 27.
16. And were carried over to Shechem - It seems that St. Stephen,
rapidly running over so many circumstances of history, has not
leisure (nor was it needful where they were so well known) to
recite them all distinctly. Therefore he here contracts into one,
two different sepulchres, places, and purchases, so as in the
former history, to name the buyer, omitting the seller, in the latter,
to name the seller, omitting the buyer. Abraham bought a burying
place of the children of Heth, Gen. xxiii. Gen. xxiii, 1-20 There
Jacob was buried. Jacob bought a field of the children of Hamor.
There Joseph was buried. You see here, how St. Stephen contracts
these two purchases into one. This concise manner of speaking,
strange as it seems to us, was common among the Hebrews;
particularly, when in a case notoriously known, the speaker
mentioned but part of the story, and left the rest, which would
have interrupted the current of his discourse, to be supplied in the
mind of the hearer. And laid in the sepulchre that Abraham
bought - The first land which these strangers bought was for a
sepulchre. They sought for a country in heaven. Perhaps the
whole sentence might be rendered thus: So Jacob went down into
Egypt and died, he and our fathers, and were carried over to
Shechem, and laid by the sons (that is, decendants) of Hamor, the
father of Shechem, in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a
sum of money.
17. Exod. i, 7.
18. Another king - Probably of another family.
19. Exposed - Cast out to perish by hunger or wild beasts.
20. In which time - A sad but a seasonable time. Exod. ii, 2.
21. Pharaoh's daughter took him up - By which means, being
designed for a kingdom, he had all those advantages of education,
which he could not have had, if he had not been exposed.
22. In all the wisdom of the Egyptians - Which was then
celebrated in all the world, and for many ages after. And mighty
in words - Deep, solid, weighty, though not of a ready utterance.
23. It came into his heart - Probably by an impulse from God.
24. Seeing one wronged - Probably by one of the task masters.
25. They understood it not - Such was their stupidity and sloth;
which made him afterward unwilling to go to them.
26. He showed himself - Of his own accord, unexpectedly.
27. Who appointed thee - "Under the presence of the want of a
call by man, the instruments of God are often rejected."
30. The angel - The Son of God; as appears from his styling
himself Jehovah. In a flame of fire - Signifying the majesty of
God then present. Exod. iii, 2.
33. Then said the Lord, Loose thy shoes - An ancient token of
reverence; for the place is holy ground - The holiness of places
depends on the peculiar presence of God there.
35. This Moses whom they refused - Namely, forty years before.
Probably, not they, but their fathers did it, and God imputes it to
them. So God frequently imputes the sins of the fathers to those of
their children who are of the same spirit. Him did God send to be
a deliverer - Which is much more than a judge; by the hand of -
That is, by means of the angel - This angel who spoke to Moses
on Mount Sinai expressly called himself Jehovah, a name which
cannot, without the highest presumption, be assumed by any
created angel, since he whose name alone is Jehovah, is the Most
High over all the earth, Psalm lxxxiii, 18. Psalm lxxxiii, 18. It was
therefore the Son of God who delivered the law to Moses, under
the character of Jehovah, and who is here spoken of as the angel
of the covenant, in respect of his mediatorial office.
37. The Lord will raise you up a prophet - St. Stephen here shows
that there is no opposition between Moses and Christ. Deut. xviii,
38. This is he - Moses. With the angel, and with our fathers - As a
mediator between them. Who received the living oracles - Every
period beginning with, And the Lord said unto Moses, is properly
an oracle. But the oracles here intended are chiefly the ten
commandments. These are termed living, because all the word of
God, applied by his Spirit, is living and powerful, Heb. iv, 12,
enlightening the eyes, rejoicing the heart, converting the soul,
raising the dead. Exod. xix, 3.
40. Make us gods to go before us - Back into Egypt. Exod. xxxii,
41. And they made a calf - In imitation of Apis, the Egyptian God:
and rejoiced in the works of their hands - In the God they had
42. God turned - From them in anger; and gave them up -
Frequently from the time of the golden calf, to the time of Amos,
and afterward. The host of heaven - The stars are called an army
or host, because of their number, order, and powerful influence. In
the book of the prophets - Of the twelve prophets, which the Jews
always wrote together in one book. Have ye offered - The passage
of Amos referred to, chap. v, 25, &c., Amos v, 25 consists of two
parts; of which the former confirms ver. 41, of the sin of the
people; the latter the beginning of ver. 42, concerning their
punishment. Have ye offered to me - They had offered many
sacrifices; but God did not accept them as offered to him, because
they sacrificed to idols also; and did not sacrifice to him with an
upright heart. Amos v, 25.
43. Ye took up - Probably not long after the golden calf: but
secretly; else Moses would have mentioned it. The shrine - A
small, portable chapel, in which was the image of their God.
Moloch was the planet Mars, which they worshipped under a
human shape. Remphan, that is, Saturn, they represented by a star.
And I will carry you beyond Babylon - That is, beyond Damascus
(which is the word in Amos) and Babylon. This was fulfilled by
the king of Assyria, 2 Kings xvii, 6.
44. Our fathers had the tabernacle of the testimony - The
testimony was properly the two tables of stone, on which the ten
commandments were written. Hence the ark which contained
them is frequently called the ark of the testimony; and the whole
tabernacle in this place. The tabernacle of the testimony -
according to the model which he had seen - When he was caught
up in the visions of God on the mount.
45. Which our fathers having received - From their ancestors;
brought into the possession of the Gentiles - Into the land which
the Gentiles possessed before. So that God's favour is not a
necessary consequence of inhabiting this land. All along St.
Stephen intimates two things:
1. That God always loved good men in every land:
2. That he never loved bad men even in this. Josh iii, 14.
46. Who petitioned to find a habitation for the God of Jacob - But
he did not obtain his petition: for God remained without any
temple till Solomon built him a house. Observe how wisely the
word is chosen with respect to what follows.
48. Yet the Most High inhabiteth not temples made with hands -
As Solomon declared at the very dedication of the temple, 1
Kings viii, 27. The Most High - Whom as such no building can
contain. Isaiah lxvi, 1.
49. What is the place of my rest? - Have I need to rest?
51. Ye stiff necked - Not bowing the neck to God's yoke; and
uncircumcised in heart - So they showed themselves, ver. 54; Act
vii, 54 and ears - As they showed, ver. 57. Act vii, 57 So far were
they from receiving the word of God into their hearts, that they
would not hear it even with their ears. Ye - And your fathers,
always - As often as ever ye are called, resist the Holy Ghost -
Testifying by the prophets of Jesus, and the whole truth. This is
the sum of what he had shown at large.
53. Who have received the law by the administration of angels -
God, when he gave the law on Mount Sinai, was attended with
thousands of his angels, Gal. iii, 19; Psalm lxviii, 17.
55. But he looking steadfastly up to heaven, saw the glory of God
- Doubtless he saw such a glorious representation, God
miraculously operating on his imagination, as on Ezekiel's, when
he sat in his house at Babylon, and saw Jerusalem, and seemed to
himself transported thither, chap. viii, 1-4. And probably other
martyrs, when called to suffer the last extremity, have had
extraordinary assistance of some similar kind.
56. I see the Son of man standing - As if it were just ready to
receive him. Otherwise he is said to sit at the right hand of God.
57. They rushed upon him - Before any sentence passed.
58. The witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young
man, whose name was Saul - O Saul, couldst thou have believed,
if one had told thee, that thou thyself shouldst be stoned in the
same cause? and shouldst triumph in committing thy soul likewise
to that Jesus whom thou art now blaspheming? His dying prayer
reached thee, as well as many others. And the martyr Stephen, and
Saul the persecutor, (afterward his brother both in faith and
martyrdom,) are now joined in everlasting friendship, and dwell
together in the happy company of those who have made their
robes white in the blood of the Lamb.
59. And they stoned Stephen, invoking and saying, Lord Jesus,
receive my spirit - This is the literal translation of the words, the
name of God not being in the original. Nevertheless such a
solemn prayer to Christ, in which a departing soul is thus
committed into his hands, is such an act of worship, as no good
man could have paid to a mere creature; Stephen here
worshipping Christ in the very same manner in which Christ
worshipped the Father on the cross.
1. At that time there was great persecution against the Church -
Their adversaries having tasted blood, were the more eager. And
they were all dispersed - Not all the Church: if so, who would
have remained for the apostles to teach, or Saul to persecute? But
all the teachers except the apostles, who, though in the most
danger, stayed with the flock.
2. Devout men - Who feared God more than persecution. And yet
were they not of little faith? Else they would not have made so
3. Saul made havoc of the Church - Like some furious beast of
prey. So the Greek word properly signifies. Men and women -
Regarding neither age nor sex.
4. Therefore they that were dispersed went every where - These
very words are reassumed, after as it were a long parenthesis,
chap. xi, 19, and the thread of the story continued.
5. Stephen - Being taken away, Philip, his next colleague, (not the
apostle,) rises in his place.
9. A certain man - using magic - So there was such a thing as
witchcraft once! In Asia at least, if not in Europe or America.
12. But when they believed - What Philip preached, then they saw
and felt the real power of God, and submitted thereto.
13. And Simon believed - That is, was convinced of the truth.
14. And the apostles hearing that Samaria - The inhabitants of that
country, had received the word of God - By faith, sent Peter and
John - He that sends must be either superior, or at least equal, to
him that is sent. It follows that the college of the apostles was
equal if not superior to Peter.
15. The Holy Ghost - In his miraculous gifts? Or his sanctifying
graces? Probably in both.
18. Simon offered them money - And hence the procuring any
ministerial function, or ecclesiastical benefice by money, is
21. Thou hast neither part - By purchase, nor lot - Given gratis, in
this matter - This gift of God. For thy heart is not right before God
- Probably St. Peter discerned this long before he had declared it;
although it does not appear that God gave to any of the apostles a
universal power of discerning the hearts of all they conversed
with; any more than a universal power of healing all the sick they
came near. This we are sure St. Paul had not; though he was not
inferior to the chief of the apostles. Otherwise he would not have
suffered the illness of Epaphroditus to have brought him so near
to death, Phil. ii, 25-27; nor have left so useful a fellow labourer
as Trophimus sick at Miletus, 2 Tim. iv, 20.
22. Repent - if perhaps the thought of thy heart may be forgiven
thee - Without all doubt if he had repented, he would have been
forgiven. The doubt was, whether he would repent. Thou art in the
gall of bitterness - In the highest degree of wickedness, which is
bitterness, that is, misery to the soul; and in the bond of iniquity -
Fast bound therewith.
26. The way which is desert - There were two ways from
Jerusalem to Gaza, one desert, the other through a more populous
27. An eunuch - Chief officers were anciently called eunuchs,
though not always literally such; because such used to be chief
ministers in the eastern courts. Candace, queen of the Ethiopians -
So all the queens of Ethiopia were called.
28. Sitting in his chariot, he read the Prophet Isaiah - God meeteth
those that remember him in his ways. It is good to read, hear, seek
information even in a journey. Why should we not redeem all our
30. And Philip running to him, said, Understandest thou what thou
readest? - He did not begin about the weather, news, or the like. In
speaking for God, we may frequently come to the point at once,
31. He desired Philip to come up and sit with him - Such was his
modesty, and thirst after instruction.
32. The portion of Scripture - By reading that very chapter, the
fifty-third of Isaiah, many Jews, yea, and atheists, have been
converted. Some of them history records. God knoweth them all.
Isaiah liii, 7
33. In his humiliation his judgment was taken away - That is,
when he was a man, he had no justice shown him. To take away a
person's judgment, is a proverbial phrase for oppressing him. And
who shall declare, or count his generation - That is, who can
number his seed, Isaiah liii, 10; which he hath purchased by
laying down his life?
36. And as they went on the way they came to a certain water -
Thus, even the circumstances of the journey were under the
direction of God. The kingdom of God suits itself to external
circumstances, without any violence, as air yields to all bodies,
and yet pervades all. What hindereth me to be baptized? -
Probably he had been circumcised: otherwise Cornelius would not
have been the first fruits of the Gentiles.
38. And they both went down - Out of the chariot. It does not
follow that he was baptized by immersion. The text neither
affirms nor intimates any thing concerning it.
39. The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip - Carried him away
with a miraculous swiftness, without any action or labour of his
own. This had befallen several of the prophets.
40. But Philip was found at Azotus - Probably none saw him,
from his leaving the eunuch, till he was there.
1. Acts xxii, 3, &c.; Acts xxvi, 9, &c.
2. Bound - By the connivance, if not authority, of the governor,
under Aretas the king. See Acts ix, 14, 24.
3. And suddenly - When God suddenly and vehemently attacks a
sinner, it is the highest act of mercy. So Saul, when his rage was
come to the height, is taught not to breathe slaughter. And what
was wanting in time to confirm him in his discipleship, is
compensated by the inexpressible terror he sustained. By his also
the suddenly constituted apostle was guarded against the grand
snare into which novices are apt to fall.
4. He heard a voice - Severe, yet full of grace.
5. To kick against the goads - is a Syriac proverb, expressing an
attempt that brings nothing but pain.
6. It shall be told thee - So God himself sends Saul to be taught by
a man, as the angel does Cornelius, chap. x, 5. Admirable
condescension! that the Lord deals with us by men, like ourselves.
7. The men - stood - Having risen before Saul; for they also fell to
the ground, chap. xxvi, 14. It is probable they all journeyed on
foot. Hearing the noise - But not an articulate voice. And seeing
the light, but not Jesus himself, chap. xxvi, 13, &c.
9. And he was three days - An important season! So long he
seems to have been in the pangs of the new birth. Without sight -
By scales growing over his eyes, to intimate to him the blindness
of the state he had been in, to impress him with a deeper sense of
the almighty power of Christ, and to turn his thoughts inward,
while he was less capable of conversing with outward objects.
This was likewise a manifest token to others, of what had
happened to him in his journey, and ought to have humbled and
convinced those bigoted Jews, to whom he had been sent from the
11. Behold he is praying - He was shown thus to Ananias.
12. A man called Ananias - His name also was revealed to Saul.
13. But he answered - How natural it is to reason against God.
14. All that call on thy name - That is, all Christians.
15. He is a chosen vessel to bear my name - That is, to testify of
me. It is undeniable, that some men are unconditionally chosen or
elected, to do some works for God
16. For I - Do thou as thou art commanded. I will take care of the
rest; will show him - In fact, through the whole course of his
ministry. How great things he must suffer - So far will he be now
from persecuting others.
17. The Lord hath sent me - Ananias does not tell Saul all which
Christ had said concerning him. It was not expedient that he
should know yet to how great a dignity he was called.
24. They guarded the gates day and night - That is, the governor
did, at their request, 2 Cor. xi, 32.
26. And coming to Jerusalem - Three years after, Gal. i, 18. These
three years St. Paul passes over, chap. xxii, 17, likewise.
27. To the apostles - Peter and James, Gal. i, 18, 19. Gal. i, 18,
19 And declared - He who has been an enemy to the truth ought
not to be trusted till he gives proof that he is changed.
31. Then the Church - The whole body of Christian believers, had
peace - Their bitterest persecutor being converted. And being built
up - In holy, loving faith, continually increasing, and walking in -
That is, speaking and acting only from this principle, the fear of
God and the comfort of the Holy Ghost - An excellent mixture of
inward and outward peace, tempered with filial fear.
35. Lydda was a large town, one day's journey from Jerusalem. It
stood in the plain or valley of Sharon, which extended from
Cesarea to Joppa, and was noted for its fruitfulness.
36. Tabitha, which is by interpretation Dorcas - She was probably
a Hellenist Jew, known among the Hebrews by the Syriac name
Tabitha, while the Greeks called her in their own language,
Dorcas. They are both words of the same import, and signify a roe
38. The disciples sent to him - Probably none of those at Joppa
had the gift of miracles. Nor is it certain that they expected a
miracle from him.
39. While she was with the in - That is, before she died.
40. Peter having put them all out - That he might have the better
opportunity of wrestling with God in prayer, said, Tabitha, arise.
And she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, sat up - Who can
imagine the surprise of Dorcas, when called back to life? Or of
her friends, when they saw her alive? For the sake of themselves,
and of the poor, there was cause of rejoicing, and much more, for
such a confirmation of the Gospel. Yet to herself it was matter of
resignation, not joy, to be called back to these scenes of vanity:
but doubtless, her remaining days were still more zealously spent
in the service of her saviour and her God. Thus was a richer
treasure laid up for her in heaven, and she afterward returned to a
more exceeding weight of glory, than that from which so
astonishing a providence had recalled her for a season.
1. And there was a certain man - The first fruits of the Gentiles, in
Cesarea - Where Philip had been before, chap. viii, 40; so that the
doctrine of salvation by faith in Jesus was not unknown there.
Cesarea was the seat of the civil government, as Jerusalem was of
the ecclesiastical. It is observable, that the Gospel made its way
first through the metropolitan cities. So it first seized Jerusalem
and Cesarea: afterward Philippi, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome
itself. A centurion, or captain, of that called the Italian band - That
is, troop or company.
2. Who gave much alms to the people - That is, to the Jews, many
of whom were at that time extremely poor.
3. He saw in a vision - Not in a trance, like Peter: plainly, so as to
leave one not accustomed to things of this kind no room to
suspect any imposition.
4. Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before
God - Dare any man say, These were only splendid sins? Or that
they were an abomination before God? And yet it is certain, in the
Christian sense Cornelius was then an unbeliever. He had not then
faith in Christ. So certain it is, that every one who seeks faith in
Christ, should seek it in prayer, and doing good to all men: though
in strictness what is not exactly according to the Divine rule must
stand in need of Divine favour and indulgence.
8. A devout soldier - How many such attendants have our modern
officers? A devout soldier would now be looked upon as little
better than a deserter from his colours.
10. And he became very hungry - At the usual meal time. The
symbols in visions and trances, it is easy to observe, are generally
suited to the state of the natural faculties.
11. Tied at the corners - Not all in one knot, but each fastened as it
were up to heaven.
14. But Peter said, In nowise, Lord - When God commands a
strange or seemingly improper thing, the first objection frequently
finds pardon. But it ought not to be repeated. This doubt and delay
of St. Peter had several good effects. Hereby the will of God in
this important point was made more evident and incontestable.
And Peter also, having been so slow of belief himself, could the
more easily bear the doubting of his brethren, chap. xi, 2, &c.
15. What God hath purified - Hath made and declared clean.
Nothing but what is clean can come down from heaven. St. Peter
well remembered this saying in the council at Jerusalem, chap. xv,
16. This was done thrice - To make the deeper impression.
17. While Peter doubted in himself, behold the men - Frequently
the things which befall us within and from without at the same
time, are a key to each other. The things which thus concur and
agree together, ought to be diligently attended to.
19. Behold three men seek thee, arise therefore and go down, and
go with them, doubting nothing - How gradually was St. Peter
prepared to receive this new admonition of the Spirit! Thus God is
went to lead on his children by degrees, always giving them light
for the present hour.
24. Cornelius was waiting for them - Not engaging himself in any
secular business during that solemn time, but being altogether
intent on this one thing.
26. I myself also am a man - And not God, who alone ought to be
worshipped, Matt. iv, 10. Have all his pretended successors
attended to this?
28. But God hath showed me - He speaks sparingly to them of his
former doubt, and his late vision.
29. I ask for what intent ye have sent for me? - St. Peter knew this
already. But he puts Cornelius on telling the story, both that the
rest might be informed, and Cornelius himself more impressed by
the narration: the repetition of which, even as we read it, gives a
new dignity and spirit to Peter's succeeding discourse,
30. Four days ago I was fasting - The first of these days he had the
vision; the second his messengers came to Joppa; on the third, St.
Peter set out; and on the fourth, came to Cesarea.
31. Thy prayer is heard - Doubtless he had been praying for
instruction, how to worship God in the most acceptable manner.
33. Now therefore we are all present before God - The language
of every truly Christian congregation.
34. I perceive of a truth - More clearly than ever, from such a
concurrence of circumstances. That God is not a respecter of
persons - Is not partial in his love. The words mean, in a particular
sense, that he does not confine his love to one nation; in a general,
that he is loving to every man, and willeth all men should be
35. But in every nation he that feareth God and worketh
righteousness - He that, first, reverences God, as great, wise,
good, the cause, end, and governor of all things; and secondly,
from this awful regard to him, not only avoids all known evil, but
endeavours, according to the best light he has, to do all things
well; is accepted of him - Through Christ, though he knows him
not. The assertion is express, and admits of no exception. He is in
the favour of God, whether enjoying his written word and
ordinances or not. Nevertheless the addition of these is an
unspeakable blessing to those who were before in some measure
accepted. Otherwise God would never have sent an angel from
heaven to direct Cornelius to St. Peter.
36. This is the word which God sent - When he sent his Son into
the world, preaching - Proclaiming by him-peace between God
and man, whether Jew or Gentile, by the God-man. He is Lord of
both; yea, Lord of and over all.
37. Ye know the word which was published - You know the facts
in general, the meaning of which I shall now more particularly
explain and confirm to you. The baptism which John preached -
To which he invited them by his preaching, in token of their
repentance. This began in Galilee, which is near Cesarea.
38. How God anointed Jesus - Particularly at his baptism, thereby
inaugurating him to his office: with the Holy Ghost and with
power - It is worthy our remark, that frequently when the Holy
Ghost is mentioned there is added a word particularly adapted to
the present circumstance. So the deacons were to be full of the
Holy Ghost and wisdom, chap. vi, 3. Barnabas was full of the
Holy Ghost and faith, chap. xi, 24. The disciples were filled with
joy, and with the Holy Ghost, chap. xiii, 52. And here, where his
mighty works are mentioned, Christ himself is said to be anointed
with the Holy Ghost and with power. For God was with him-He
speaks sparingly here of the majesty of Christ, as considering the
state of his hearers.
41. Not now to all the people - As before his death; to us who did
eat and drink with him - That is, conversed familiarly and
continually with him, in the time of his ministry.
42. It is he who is ordained by God the Judge of the living and the
dead - Of all men, whether they are alive at his coming, or had
died before it. This was declaring to them, in the strongest terms,
how entirely their happiness depended on a timely and humble
subjection to him who was to be their final Judge.
43. To him give all the prophets witness - Speaking to heathens he
does not quote any in particular; that every one who believeth in
him - Whether he be Jew or Gentile; receiveth remission of sins -
Though he had not before either feared God, or worked
44. The Holy Ghost fell on all that were hearing the word - Thus
were they consecrated to God, as the first fruits of the Gentiles.
And thus did God give a clear and satisfactory evidence, that he
had accepted them as well as the Jews.
45. The believers of the circumcision - The believing Jews.
47. Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized,
who have received the Holy Ghost? - He does not say they have
the baptism of the Spirit; therefore they do not need baptism with
water. But just the contrary: if they have received the Spirit, then
baptize them with water. How easily is this question decided, if
we will take the word of God for our rule! Either men have
received the Holy Ghost or not. If they have not, Repent, saith
God, and be baptized, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy
Ghost. If they have, if they are already baptized with the Holy
Ghost, then who can forbid water?
48. In the name of the Lord - Which implies the Father who
anointed him, and the Spirit with which he was anointed to his
office. But as the Gentiles had before believed in God the Father,
and could not but now believe in the Holy Ghost, under whose
powerful influence they were at this very time, there was the less
need of taking notice, that they were baptized into the belief and
profession of the sacred Three: though doubtless the apostle
administered the ordinances in that very form which Christ
himself had prescribed.
4. Peter laid all things before them - So he did not take it ill to be
questioned, nor desire to be treated as infallible. And he answers
the more mildly because it related to a point which he had not
readily believed himself.
5. Being in a trance - Which suspends the use of the outward
14. Saved - With the full Christian salvation, in this world and the
world to come.
17. To us, when we believed - The sense is, because we believed,
not because we were circumcised, was the Holy Ghost given to
us. What was I - A mere instrument in God's hand. They had
inquired only concerning his eating with the Gentiles. He satisfies
them likewise concerning his baptizing them, and shows that he
had done right in going to Cornelius, not only by the command of
God, but also by the event, the descent of the Holy Ghost. And
who are we that we should withstand God? Particularly by laying
down rules of Christian communion which exclude any whom he
has admitted into the Church of the first born, from worshipping
God together. O that all Church governors would consider how
bold an usurpation this is on the authority of the supreme Lord of
the Church! O that the sin of thus withstanding God may not be
laid to the charge of those, who perhaps with a good intention, but
in an over fondness for their own forms, have done it, and are
continually doing it.
18. They glorified God - Being thoroughly satisfied. Repentance
unto life - True repentance is a change from spiritual death to
spiritual life, and leads to life everlasting.
19. They who had been dispersed - St. Luke here resumes the
thread of his narration, in the very words wherewith he broke it
off, chap. viii, 6. As far as Phenicia to the north, Cyprus to the
west, and Antioch to the east.
20. Some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene - Who were
more accustomed to converse with the Gentiles. Who coming into
Antioch - Then the capital of Syria, and, next to Rome and
Alexandria, the most considerable city of the empire. Spake to the
Greeks - As the Greeks were the most celebrated of the Gentile
nations near Judea, the Jews called all the Gentiles by that name.
Here we have the first account of the preaching the Gospel to the
idolatrous Gentiles. All those to whom it had been preached
before, did at least worship one God, the God of Israel.
21. And the hand of the Lord - That is, the power of his Spirit.
26. And the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch -
Here it was that they first received this standing appellation. They
were before termed Nazarenes and Galileans.
28. Agabus rising up - In the congregation. All the world - The
word frequently signifies all the Roman empire. And so it is
doubtless to be taken here.
29. Then - Understanding the distress they would otherwise be in
on that account, the disciples determined to send relief to the
brethren in Judea - Who herein received a manifest proof of the
reality of their conversion.
30. Sending it to the elders - Who gave it to the deacons, to be
distributed by them, as every one had need.
1. About that time - So wisely did God mix rest and persecution in
due time and measure succeeding each other. Herod - Agrippa;
the latter was his Roman, the former his Syrian name. He was the
grandson of Herod the Great, nephew to Herod Antipas, who
beheaded John the Baptist; brother to Herodias, and father to that
Agrippa before whom St. Paul afterward made his defense.
Caligula made him king of the tetrarchy of his uncle Philip, to
which he afterward added the territories of Antipas. Claudius
made him also king of Judea, and added thereto the dominions of
2. James the brother of John - So one of the brothers went to God
the first, the other the last of the apostles.
3. Then were the days of unleavened bread - At which the Jews
came together from all parts.
4. Four quaternions - Sixteen men, who watched by turns day and
5. Continual prayer was made for him - Yet when their prayer was
answered, they could scarce believe it, ver. 15. But why had they
not prayed for St. James also? Because he was put to death as
soon as apprehended.
6. Peter was sleeping - Easy and void of fear; between two
soldiers - Sufficiently secured to human appearance.
7. His chains - With which his right arm was bound to one of the
soldiers, and his left arm to the other.
8. Gird thyself - Probably he had put off his girdle, sandals, and
upper garment, before he lay down to sleep.
10. The first and second ward - At each of which doubtless was a
guard of soldiers. The gate opened of its own accord - Without
either Peter or the angel touching it. And they went on through
one street - That Peter might know which way to go. And the
angel departed from him - Being himself sufficient for what
remained to be done.
11. Now I know of a truth - That this is not a vision, ver. 9.
12. And having considered - What was best to be done. Many
were gathered together - At midnight.
13. The gate - At some distance from the house; to hearken - If
14. And knowing Peter's voice - Bidding her open the door.
15. They said, Thou art mad - As we say, Sure you are not in your
senses to talk so. It is his angel - It was a common opinion among
the Jews, that every man had his particular guardian angel, who
frequently assumed both his shape and voice. But this is a point
on which the Scriptures are silent.
17. Beckoning to them - Many of whom being amazed, were
talking together. And he said, Show these things to James - The
brother or kinsman of our Lord, and author of the epistle which
bears his name. He appears to have been a person of considerable
weight and importance, probably the chief overseer of that
province, and of the Church in Jerusalem in particular. He went
into another place - Where he might be better concealed till the
storm was over.
19. Herod commanded them to be put to death - And thus the
wicked suffered in the room of the righteous. And going down
from Judea - With shame, for not having brought forth Peter,
according to his promise.
20. Having gained Blastus - To their side, they sued for, and
obtained peace - Reconciliation with Herod. And so the Christians
of those parts were, by the providence of God, delivered from
scarcity. Their country was nourished - Was provided with, corn,
by the king's country - Thus Hiram also, king of Tyre, desired of
Solomon food or corn for his household, 1 Kings v, 9.
21. And on a set day - Which was solemnized yearly, in honour of
Claudius Cesar; Herod, arrayed in royal apparel - In a garment so
wrought with silver, that the rays of the rising sun striking upon,
and being reflected from it, dazzled the eyes of the beholders. The
people shouted, It is the voice of a God - Such profane flattery
they frequently paid to princes. But the commonness of a wicked
custom rather increases than lessens the guilt of it.
23. And immediately - God does not delay to vindicate his injured
honour; an angel of the Lord smote him - Of this other historians
say nothing: so wide a difference there is between Divine and
human history! An angel of the Lord brought out Peter; an angel
smote Herod. Men did not see the instruments in either case.
These were only known to the people of God. Because he gave
not glory to God - He willingly received it to himself, and by this
sacrilege filled up the measure of his iniquities. So then
vengeance tarried not. And he was eaten by worms, or vermin -
How changed! And on the fifth day expired in exquisite torture.
Such was the event! The persecutor perished, and the Gospel grew
25. Saul returned - To Antioch; taking John, surnamed Mark - The
son of Mary, (at whose house the disciples met, to pray for Peter,)
who was sister to Barnabas.
1. Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod - His foster
brother, now freed from the temptations of a court.
2. Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have
called them - This was not ordaining them. St. Paul was ordained
long before, and that not of men, neither by man: it was only
inducting him to the province for which our Lord had appointed
him from the beginning, and which was now revealed to the
prophets and teachers. In consequence of this they fasted, prayed,
and laid their hands on them, a rite which was used not in
ordination only, but in blessing, and on many other occasions.
3. Then having fasted - Again. Thus they did also, chap. xiv, 23.
5. In the synagogues - Using all opportunities that offered.
6. Paphos was on the western, Salamis on the eastern part of the
7. The proconsul - The Roman governor of Cyprus, a prudent man
- And therefore not overswayed by Elymas, but desirous to
9. Then Saul, who was also called Paul - It is not improbable, that
coming now among the Romans, they would naturally adapt his
name to their own language, and so called him Paul instead of
Saul. Perhaps the family of the proconsul might be the first who
addressed to or spoke of him by this name. And from this time,
being the apostle of the Gentiles, he himself used the name which
was more familiar to them.
10. O full of all guile - As a false prophet, and all mischief - As a
magician. Thou son of the devil - A title well suited to a magician;
and one who not only was himself unrighteous, but laboured to
keep others from all goodness. Wilt thou not cease to pervert the
right ways of the Lord? - Even now thou hast heard the truth of
11. And immediately a mist - Or dimness within, and darkness
without, fell upon him.
12. Being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord - Confirmed by
such a miracle.
13. John withdrawing from them returned - Tired with the fatigue,
or shrinking from danger.
14. Antioch in Pisidia - Different from the Antioch mentioned ver.
15. And after the reading of the law and the prophets, the chief of
the synagogue sent to them - The law was read over once every
year, a portion of it every Sabbath: to which was added a lesson
taken out of the prophets. After this was over, any one might
speak to the people, on any subject he thought convenient. Yet it
was a circumstance of decency which Paul and Barnabas would
hardly omit, to acquaint the rulers with their desire of doing it:
probably by some message before the service began.
16. Ye that fear God - Whether proselytes or heathens.
17. The God - By such a commemoration of God's favours to their
fathers, at once their minds were conciliated to the speaker, they
were convinced of their duty to God, and invited to believe his
promise, and the accomplishment of it. The six verses 17-22,
contain the whole sum of the Old Testament. Of this people - Paul
here chiefly addresses himself to those whom he styles, Ye that
fear God: he speaks of Israel first; and ver. 26, speaks more
directly to the Israelites themselves. Chose - And this exalted the
people; not any merit or goodness of their own, Ezek. xx, 5. Our
fathers - Abraham and his posterity. Isaiah i, 2.
18. Deut. i, 31.
19. Seven nations - Enumerated Deut. vii, 1; about four hundred
and fifty years - That is, from the choice of the fathers to the
dividing of the land; it was about four hundred and fifty years.
21. He gave them Saul forty years - Including the time wherein
Samuel judged Israel.
22. Having removed him - Hence they might understand that the
dispensations of God admit of various changes. I have found
David, a man after my own heart - This expression is to be taken
in a limited sense. David was such at that time, but not at all
times. And he was so, in that respect, as he performed all God's
will, in the particulars there mentioned: But he was not a man
after God's own heart, in other respects, wherein he performed his
own will. In the matter of Uriah, for instance, he was as far from
being a man after God's own heart as Saul himself was. It is
therefore a very gross, as well as dangerous mistake, to suppose
this is the character of David in every part of his behaviour. We
must beware of this, unless we would recommend adultery and
murder as things after God's own heart.
1 Sam. xvi, 12, 13.
24. John having first preached - He mentions this, as a thing
already known to them. And so doubtless it was. For it gave so
loud an alarm to the whole Jewish nation, as could not but be
heard of in foreign countries, at least as remote as Pisidia.
25. His course - His work was quickly finished, and might
therefore well be termed a course or race. Luke iii, 16.
27. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers - He here
anticipates a strong objection, "Why did not they at Jerusalem,
and especially their rulers, believe?" They know not him, because
they understood not those very prophets whom they read or heard
continually. Their very condemning him, innocent as he was,
proves that they understood not the prophecies concerning him.
29. They fulfilled all things that were written of him - So far could
they go, but no farther.
31. He was seen many days by them who came up with him from
Galilee to Jerusalem - This last journey both presupposes all the
rest, and was the most important of all.
33. Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee - It is true, he
was the Son of God from eternity. The meaning therefore is, I
have this day declared thee to be my Son. As St. Paul elsewhere,
declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection
from the dead, Rom. i, 4. And it is with peculiar propriety and
beauty that God is said to have begotten him, on the day when he
raised him from the dead, as he seemed then to be born out of the
earth anew. Psalm ii, 7.
34. No more to return to corruption - That is, to die no more. I
will give you the sure mercies of David - The blessings promised
to David in Christ. These are sure, certain, firm, solid, to every
true believer in him. And hence the resurrection of Christ
necessarily follows; for without this, those blessings could not be
given. Isaiah lv, 3.
35. He saith - David in the name of the Messiah. Psalm xvi, 10.
36. David, having served the will of God in his generation, fell
asleep - So his service extended not itself beyond the bounds of
the common age of man: but the service of the Messiah to all
generations, as his kingdom to all ages. Served the will of God -
Why art thou here thou who art yet in the world? Is it not that thou
also mayest serve the will of God? Art thou serving it now? Doing
all his will? And was added to his fathers - Not only in body. This
expression refers to the soul also, and supposes the immortality of
39. Every one that believeth is justified from all things - Has the
actual forgiveness of all his sins, at the very time of his believing;
from which ye could not be justified - Not only ye cannot now;
but ye never could. For it afforded no expiation for presumptuous
sins. By the law of Moses - The whole Mosaic institution! The
division of the law into moral and ceremonial was not so common
among the Jews, as it is among us. Nor does the apostle here
consider it at all: but Moses and Christ are opposed to each other.
40. Beware - A weighty and seasonable admonition. No reproof is
as yet added to it.
41. I work a work which ye will in nowise believe - This was
originally spoken to those, who would not believe that God would
ever deliver them from the power of the Chaldeans. But it is
applicable to any who will not believe the promises, or the works
of God. Hab. i, 5.
42. When the Jews were going out - Probably many of them, not
bearing to hear him, went out before he had done. The Sabbath
between - So the Jews call to this day the Sabbath between the
first day of the month Tisri (on which the civil year begins) and
the tenth of the same month, which is the solemn day of expiation.
43. Who speaking to them - More familiarly, persuaded them to
continue - For trials were at hand, in the grace of God - That is, to
adhere to the Gospel or Christian faith.
46. Then Paul and Barnabas speaking boldly, said - Those who
hinder others must be publicly reproved. It was necessary -
Though ye are not worthy: he shows that he had not preached to
them, from any confidence of their believing, but seeing ye judge
yourselves unworthy of eternal life - They indeed judged none but
themselves worthy of it. Yet their rejecting of the Gospel was the
same as saying, "We are unworthy of eternal life." Behold! - A
thing now present! An astonishing revolution! We turn to the
Gentiles - Not that they left off preaching to the Jews in other
places. But they now determined to lose no more time at Antioch
on their ungrateful countrymen, but to employ themselves wholly
in doing what they could for the conversion of the Gentiles there.
47. For so hath the Lord commanded us - By sending us forth, and
giving us an opportunity of fulfilling what he had foretold. I have
set thee - The Father speaks to Christ. Isaiah xlix, 6.
48. As many as were ordained to eternal life - St. Luke does not
say fore-ordained. He is not speaking of what was done from
eternity, but of what was then done, through the preaching of the
Gospel. He is describing that ordination, and that only, which was
at the very time of hearing it. During this sermon those believed,
says the apostle, to whom God then gave power to believe. It is as
if he had said, "They believed, whose hearts the Lord opened;" as
he expresses it in a clearly parallel place, speaking of the same
kind of ordination, chap. xvi, 14, &c. It is observable, the original
word is not once used in Scripture to express eternal
predestination of any kind. The sum is, all those and those only,
who were now ordained, now believed. Not that God rejected the
rest: it was his will that they also should have been saved: but they
thrust salvation from them. Nor were they who then believed
constrained to believe. But grace was then first copiously offered
them. And they did not thrust it away, so that a great multitude
even of Gentiles were converted. In a word, the expression
properly implies, a present operation of Divine grace working
faith in the hearers.
1. They so spake - Persecution having increased their strength.
9. He had faith to be healed - He felt the power of God in his soul;
and thence knew it was sufficient to heal his body also.
11. The gods are come down - Which the heathens supposed they
frequently did; Jupiter especially. But how amazingly does the
prince of darkness blind the minds of them that believe not! The
Jews would not own Christ's Godhead, though they saw him work
numberless miracles. On the other hand, the heathens seeing mere
men work one miracle, were for deifying them immediately.
13. The priest of Jupiter - Whose temple and image were just
without the gate of the city, brought garlands - To put on the
victims, and bulls - The usual offerings to Jupiter.
14. They sprang in among the people, crying out - As in a fire, or
other sudden and great danger.
15. To turn from these vanities - From worshipping any but the
true God. He does not deign to call them gods; unto the living
God - Not like these dead idols; who made the heaven and the
earth, the sea - Each of which they supposed to have its own gods.
16. Who in times past - He prevents their objection, "But if these
things are so, we should have heard the in from our fathers."
Suffered - An awful judgment, all nations - The multitude of them
that err does not turn error into truth, to walk in their own ways -
The idolatries which they had chosen.
17. He left not himself without witness - For the heathens had
always from God himself a testimony both of his existence and of
his providence; in that he did good - Even by punishments he
testifies of himself; but more peculiarly by benefits; giving rain -
By which air, earth, and sea, are, as it were, all joined together;
from heaven - The seat of God; to which St. Paul probably
pointed while he spoke, filling the body with food, the soul with
19. Who persuaded the multitude - Moved with equal ease either
to adore or murder him.
20. But as the disciples stood round - Probably after sunset. The
enraged multitude would scarce have suffered it in the day time:
he rose and went into the city - That he should be able to do this,
just after he had been left for dead, was a miracle little less than a
resurrection from the dead. Especially considering the manner
wherein the Jewish malefactors were stoned. The witnesses first
threw as large a stone as they could lift, with all possible violence
upon his head, which alone was sufficient to dash the skull in
pieces. All the people then joined, as long as any motion or token
of life remained.
23. When they had ordained them presbyters in every Church -
Out of those who were themselves but newly converted. So soon
can God enable even a babe in Christ to build up others in the
common faith: they commended them to the Lord - An expression
implying faith in Christ, as well as love to the brethren.
25. Perga and Attalia were cities of Pamphylia.
26. Recommended to the grace - Or favour, of God, for the work
which they had fulfilled - This shows the nature and design of that
laying on of hands, which was mentioned chap. xiii, 3.
1. Coming down from Judea - Perhaps to supply what they
thought Paul and Barnabas had omitted.
2. They (the brethren) determined that Paul and Barnabas, and
certain others should go up to Jerusalem about this question - This
is the journey to which St. Paul refers, Gal. ii, 1, 2, when he says
he went up by Revelation: which is very consistent with this; for
the Church in sending them might be directed by a Revelation
made either immediately to St. Paul, or to some other person,
relating to so important an affair. Important indeed it was, that
these Jewish impositions should be solemnly opposed in time;
because multitudes of converts were still zealous for the law, and
ready to contend for the observance of it. Indeed many of the
Christians of Antioch would have acquiesced in the determination
of Paul alone. But as many others might have prejudices against
him, for his having been so much concerned for the Gentiles, it
was highly expedient to take the concurrent judgment of all the
apostles on this occasion.
4. They were received - That is solemnly welcomed.
5. But certain Pharisees - For even believers are apt to retain their
former turn of mind, and prejudices derived therefrom. The law of
Moses - The whole law, both moral and ritual.
7. After much debate - It does not appear that this was among the
apostles themselves. But if it had, if they themselves had debated
at first, yet might their final decision be from an unerring
direction. For how really soever they were inspired, we need not
suppose their inspiration was always so instantaneous and
express, as to supersede any deliberation in their own minds, or
any consultation with each other. Peter rose up - This is the last
time he is mentioned in the Acts.
8. God bare them witness - That he had accepted them, by giving
them the Holy Ghost.
9. Purifying - This word is repeated from chap. x, 15; their hearts
- The heart is the proper seat of purity; by faith - Without
concerning themselves with the Mosaic law.
10. Now therefore - Seeing these things are so: why tempt ye
God? - Why do ye provoke him to anger, by putting so heavy a
yoke on their neck?
11. The Lord Jesus - He does not here say our Lord; because in
this solemn place he means the Lord of all, we - Jews, shall be
saved even as they - Gentiles, namely, through the grace of the
Lord Jesus, not by our observance of the ceremonial law.
12. Miracles and wonders - By which also what St. Peter had said
14. Simon hath declared - James, the apostle of the Hebrews, calls
Peter by his Hebrew name. To take out of them a people for his
name - That is to believe in him, to be called by his name.
15. To this agree - St. Peter had urged the plain fact, which St.
James confirms by Scripture prophecy. The words of the prophets
- One of whom is immediately cited.
16. After this - After the Jewish dispensation expires. I will build
again the fallen tabernacle of David - By raising from his seed the
Christ, who shall build on the ruins of his fallen tabernacle a
spiritual and eternal kingdom. Amos ix, 11.
17. The Gentiles on whom my name is called - That is, who are
called by my name; who are my people.
18. Known unto God are all his works from eternity - Which the
apostle infers from the prophecy itself, and the accomplishment of
it. And this conversion of the Gentiles being known to him from
eternity, we ought not to think a new or strange thing. It is
observable, he does not speak of God's works in the natural world,
(which had been nothing to his present purpose,) but of his
dealing with the children of men. Now he could not know these,
without knowing the characters and actions of particular persons,
on a correspondence with which the wisdom and goodness of his
providential dispensations is founded. For instance, he could not
know how he would deal with heathen idolaters (whom he was
now calling into his Church) without knowing there would be
heathen idolaters: and yet this was a thing purely contingent, a
thing as dependent on the freedom of the human mind, as any we
can imagine. This text, therefore, among a thousand more, is an
unanswerable proof, that God foreknows future contingencies,
though there are difficulties relating hereto which men cannot
20. To abstain from fornication - Which even the philosophers
among the heathens did not account any fault. It was particularly
frequent in the worship of their idols, on which account they are
here named together. And from things strangled - That is, from
whatever had been killed, without pouring out the blood. When
God first permitted man to eat flesh, he commanded Noah, and in
him all his posterity, whenever they killed any creature for food,
to abstain from the blood thereof. It was to be poured upon the
ground as water: doubtless in honour of that blood which was in
due time poured out for the sin of the world.
21. Perhaps the connection is, To the Jews we need write nothing
on these heads; for they hear the law continually.
22. With the whole Church - Which therefore had a part therein;
to send chosen men - Who might put it beyond all dispute, that
this was the judgment of the apostles and all the brethren.
23. Writing thus, and sending it by their hand - The whole
conduct of this affair plainly shows that the Church in those days
had no conception of St. Peter's primacy, or of his being the chief
judge in controversies. For the decree is drawn up, not according
to his, but the Apostle James's proposal and direction: and that in
the name, not of St. Peter, but of all the apostles and elders, and of
the whole Church. Nay, St. Peter's name is not mentioned at all,
either in the order for sending to Jerusalem on the question, ver. 2,
or in the address of the messengers concerning it, ver. 4, or in the
letter which was written in answer.
24. Forasmuch as, &c. - The simplicity, weightiness, and
conciseness of this letter are highly observable.
26. Men that have hazarded their lives - This is spoken of Paul
27. Who will tell you the same things - Which we have written.
28. These necessary things - All of these were necessary for that
time. But the first of them was not necessary long; and the
direction concerning it was therefore repealed by the same Spirit,
as we read in the former Epistle to the Corinthians.
29. Blood - The eating which was never permitted the children of
God from the beginning of the world. Nothing can be clearer than
1. From Adam to Noah no man ate flesh at all; consequently no
man then ate blood.
2. When God allowed Noah and his posterity to eat flesh, he
absolutely forbade them to eat blood; and accordingly this, with
the other six precepts of Noah, was delivered down from Noah to
3. God renewed this prohibition by Moses, which was not
repealed from the time of Moses till Christ came.
4. Neither after his coming did any presume to repeal this decree
of the Holy Ghost, till it seemed good to the bishop of Rome so to
do, about the middle of the eighth century.
5. From that time those Churches which acknowledged his
authority held the eating of blood to be an indifferent thing. But,
6. In all those Churches which never did acknowledge the bishop
of Rome's authority, it never was allowed to eat blood; nor is it
allowed at this day. This is the plain fact; let men reason as
plausibly as they please on one side or the other. From which
keeping yourselves ye will do well - That is, ye will find a
blessing. This gentle manner of concluding was worthy the
apostolical wisdom and goodness. But how soon did succeeding
councils of inferior authority change it into the style of
anathemas! Forms which have proved an occasion of consecrating
some of the most devilish passions under the most sacred names;
and like some ill-adjusted weapons of war, are most likely to hurt
the hand from which they are thrown.
35. Paul and Barnabas abode in Antioch - And it was during this
time that Peter came down from Jerusalem, and that St. Paul
withstood him to the face, for separating himself from the
Gentiles, Gal. ii, 11, &c.
36. Let us go and visit the brethren in every city where we have
preached - This was all that St. Paul designed at first; but it was
not all that God designed by his journey, whose providence
carried him much farther than he intended. And see how they do -
How their souls prosper: how they grow in faith, hope love: what
else ought to be the grand and constant inquiry in every
ecclesiastical visitation? Reader, how dost thou do?
37. Barnabas counselled to take John - His kinsman.
38. But Paul thought it not right - To trust him again, who had
deserted them before: who had shrunk from the labour and danger
of converting those they were now going to confirm.
39. And there was a sharp contention - Literally, a paroxysm, or
fit of a fever. But nothing in the text implies that the sharpness
was on both sides. It is far more probable that it was not; that St.
Paul, who had the right on his side, as he undoubtedly had,)
maintained it with love. And Barnabas taking Mark with him,
sailed away to Cyprus - Forsaking the work in which he was
engaged, he went away to his own country.
40. But Paul departed - Held on his intended course: being
recommended by the brethren to the grace of God - We do not
find that Barnabas stayed for this. O how mighty is the grace of
God! which in the midst of the world, in the midst of sin, among
so many snares of Satan, and in spite of the incredible weakness
and depravity of nature, yet overcomes all opposition, sanctifies,
sustains, and preserves us to the end! It appears not only that Paul
and Barnabas were afterward thoroughly reconciled, 1 Cor. ix, 6;
Gal. ii, 9; but also that John was again admitted by St. Paul as a
companion in his labours, Colossians iv, 10; Phil. i, 24; 2 Tim. iv,
3. He took and circumcised him because of the Jews - The
unbelieving Jews, to whom he designed he should preach. For
they would not have conversed with him at all, so long as he was
6. And having gone through Phrygia - And spoken there what was
sufficient, as well as in the region of Galatia, being forbid by the
Spirit (probably by an inward dictate) to speak as yet in the
proconsular Asia, the time for it not being come.
7. Coming to Mysia, and passing it by, as being a part of Asia,
they attempted to go into Bithynia; but the Spirit suffered them
not - Forbidding them as before. Sometimes a strong impression,
for which we are not able to give any account, is not altogether to
9. A vision appeared to Paul by night - It was not a dream, though
it was by night. No other dream is mentioned in the New
Testament than that of Joseph and of Pilate's wife. A man of
Macedonia - Probably an angel clothed in the Macedonian habit,
or using the language of the country, and representing the
inhabitants of it. Help us - Against Satan, ignorance, and sin.
10. We sought to go into Macedonia - This is the first place in
which St. Luke intimates his attendance on the apostle. And here
he does it only in an oblique manner. Nor does he throughout the
history once mention his own name, or any one thing which he
did or said for the service of Christianity; though Paul speaks of
him in the most honourable terms, Colossians iv, 14; 2 Tim. iv,
11; and probably as the brother whose praise in the Gospel went
through all the Churches, 2 Cor. viii, 18. The same remark may be
made on the rest of the sacred historians, who every one of them
show the like amiable modesty.
11. We ran with a straight course - Which increased their
confidence that God had called them.
12. The first city - Neapolis was the first city they came to in that
part of Macedonia which was nearest to Asia: in that part which
was farthest from it, Philippi. The river Strymon ran between
them. Philippi was a Roman colony.
13. We went out of the gate - The Jews usually held their religious
assemblies (either by choice or constraint) at a distance from the
heathens: by a river side - Which was also convenient for
purifying themselves. Where prayer was wont to be made -
Though it does not appear there was any house built there. We
spake - At first in a familiar manner. Paul did not immediately
begin to preach.
14. A worshipper of God - Probably acquainted with the prophetic
writings whose heart the Lord opened - The Greek word properly
refers to the opening of the eyes: and the heart has its eyes, Eph. i,
18. These are closed by nature and to open them is the peculiar
work of God.
15. She was baptized and her family - Who can believe that in so
many families there was no infant? Or that the Jews, who were so
long accustomed to circumcise their children, would not now
devote them to God by baptism? She entreated us - The souls of
the faithful cleave to those by whom they were gained to God.
She constrained us - By her importunity. They did not
immediately comply, lest any should imagine they sought their
own profit by coming into Macedonia.
17. These men are - A great truth: but St. Paul did not need, nor
would accept, of such testimony.
19. The magistrates - The supreme magistrates of the city. In the
next verse they are called by a title which often signifies pretors.
These officers exercised both the military and civil authority.
20. Being Jews - A nation peculiarly despised by the Romans.
21. And teach customs which it is not lawful for us to receive -
The world has received all the rules and doctrines of all the
philosophers that ever were. But this is a property of Gospel truth:
it has something in it peculiarly intolerable to the world.
23. They laid many stripes upon them - Either they did not
immediately say they were Romans, or in the tumult it was not
regarded. Charging the jailer - Perhaps rather to quiet the people
than because they thought them criminal.
24. Secured their feet in the stocks - These were probably those
large pieces of wood, in use among the Romans, which not only
loaded the legs of the prisoner, but also kept them extended in a
very painful manner.
25. Paul and Silas sung a hymn to God - Notwithstanding
weariness, hunger stripes, and blood. And the prisoners heard - A
song to which they were not accustomed.
28. But Paul cried - As they were all then in the dark, it is not easy
to say, how Paul knew of the jailer's purpose; unless it were by
some immediate notice from God, which is by no means
incredible. With a loud voice - Through earnestness, and because
he was at some distance. Do thyself no harm - Although the
Christian faith opens the prospect into another life, yet it
absolutely forbids and effectually prevents a man's discharging
himself from this.
30. Sirs - He did not style them so the day before. What must I do
to be saved? - From the guilt I feel and the vengeance I fear?
Undoubtedly God then set his sins in array before him, and
convinced him in the clearest and strongest manner that the wrath
of God abode upon him.
31. Thou shalt be saved and thy household - If ye believe. They
did so, and were saved.
33. He washed their stripes - It should not be forgot, that the
apostles had not the power of working miraculous cures when
they pleased, either on themselves, or their dearest friends. Nor
was it expedient they should, since it would have frustrated many
wise designs of God, which were answered by their sufferings.
34. He set a table before them and rejoiced - Faith makes a man
joyful, prudent, liberal.
35. The pretors sent - Being probably terrified by the earthquake;
saying, Let those men go - How different from the charge given a
few hours before! And how great an ease of mind to the jailer!
37. They have beaten us publicly, being Roman - St. Paul does not
always plead this privilege. But in a country where they were
entire strangers, such treatment might have brought upon them a
suspicion of having been guilty of some uncommon crime, and so
have hindered the course of the Gospel.
40. When they had seen the brethren, they comforted them and
departed - Though many circumstances now invited their stay, yet
they wisely complied with the request of the magistrates, that they
might not seem to express any degree of obstinacy or revenge, or
give any suspicion of a design to stir up the people.
1. And taking their journey through Amphipolis and Apollonia -
St. Luke seems to have been left at Philippi; and to have
continued in those parts, travelling from place to place among the
Churches, till St. Paul returned thither. For here he leaves off
speaking of himself as one of St. Paul's company; neither does he
resume that style, till we find them together there, chap. xx, 5, 6.
After this he constantly uses it to the end of the history.
Amphipolis and Apollonia were cities of Macedonia.
2. And Paul, according to his custom - Of doing all things, as far
as might be, in a regular manner, went in to them three Sabbath
days - Not excluding the days between.
4. Of the principal women, not a few - Our free thinkers pique
themselves upon observing, that women are more religious than
men; and this, in compliment both to religion and good manners,
they impute to the weakness of their understandings. And indeed
as far as nature can go, in imitating religion by performing the
outward acts of it, this picture of religion may make a fairer show
in women than in men, both by reason of their more tender
passions, and their modesty, which will make those actions appear
to more advantage. But in the case of true religion, which always
implies taking up the cross, especially in time of persecution,
women lie naturally under a great disadvantage, as having less
courage than men. So that their embracing the Gospel was a
stronger evidence of the power of him whose strength is perfected
in weakness, as a stronger assistance of the Holy Spirit was
needful for them to overcome their natural fearfulness.
11. These were more ingenuous - Or generous. To be teachable in
the things of God is true generosity of soul. The receiving the
word with all readiness of mind, and the most accurate search into
the truth, are well consistent.
12. Many of the - Of the Jews. And of the Grecian women - Who
were followed by their husbands.
16. While Paul was waiting for the - Having no design, as it
seems, to preach at Athens, but his zeal for God drew him into it
unawares, without staying till his companions came.
18. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosopher - The
Epicureans entirely denied a providence, and held the world to be
the effect of mere chance; asserting sensual pleasure to be man's
chief good, and that the soul and body died together. The Stoics
held, that matter was eternal; that all things were governed by
irresistible fate; that virtue was its own sufficient reward, and vice
its own sufficient punishment. It is easy to see, how happily the
apostle levels his discourse at some of the most important errors
of each, while, without expressly attacking either, he gives a plain
summary of his own religious principles. What would this babbler
say? - Such is the language of natural reason, full of, and satisfied
with itself. Yet even here St. Paul had some fruit; though nowhere
less than at Athens. And no wonder, since this city was a
seminary of philosophers, who have ever been the pest of true
religion. He seemeth to be a proclaimer - This he returns upon
them at the 23rd verse; of strange gods - Such as are not known
even at Athens. Because he preached to them Jesus and the
resurrection - A God and a goddess. And as stupid as this mistake
was, it is the less to be wondered at, since the Athenians might as
well count the resurrection a deity, as shame, famine, and many
19. The Areopagus, or hill of Mars, (dedicated to Mars, the
heathen God of war,) was the place where the Athenians held
their supreme court of judicature. But it does not appear he was
carried thither as a criminal. The original number of its Judges
was twelve; but afterward it increased to three hundred. These
were generally men of the greatest families in Athens, and were
famed for justice and integrity.
21. And the strangers sojourning there - And catching the
distemper of them. Some new thing - The Greek word signifies
some newer thing. New things quickly grew cheap, and they
wanted those that were newer still.
22. Then Paul standing in the midst of the Areopagus - An ample
theatre; said - Giving them a lecture of natural divinity, with
admirable wisdom, acuteness, fulness, and courtesy. They inquire
after new things: Paul in his divinely philosophical discourse,
begins with the first, and goes on to the last things, both which
were new things to them. He points out the origin and the end of
all things, concerning which they had so many disputes, and
equally refutes both the Epicurean and Stoic. I perceive - With
what clearness and freedom does he speak! Paul against Athens!
23. I found an altar - Some suppose this was set up by Socrates, to
express in a covert way his devotion to the only true God, while
he derided the plurality of the heathen gods, for which he was
condemned to death: and others, that whoever erected this altar,
did it in honour to the God of Israel, of whom there was no image,
and whose name Jehovah was never made known to the idolatrous
Gentiles. Him proclaim I unto you - Thus he fixes the wandering
attention of these blind philosophers; proclaiming to them an
unknown, and yet not a new God.
24. God who made the world - Thus is demonstrated even to
reason, the one true, good God; absolutely different from the
creatures, from every part of the visible creation.
25. Neither is he served as though he needed any thing - or person
- The Greek word equally takes in both. To all - That live and
breathe;-in him we live; and breathe - In him we move. By
breathing life is continued. I breathe this moment: the next is not
in my power: and all things - For in him we are. So exactly do the
parts of this discourse answer each other.
26. He hath made of one blood the whole nation of men - By this
expression the apostle showed them in the most unaffected
manner, that though he was a Jew, be was not enslaved to any
narrow views, but looked on all mankind as his brethren: having
determined the times - That it is God who gave men the earth to
inhabit, Paul proves from the order of times and places, showing
the highest wisdom of the Disposer, superior to all human
counsels. And the bounds of their habitation - By mountains, seas,
rivers, and the like.
27. If haply - The way is open; God is ready to be found. But he
will lay no force upon man; they might feel after him - This is in
the midst between seeking and finding. Feeling being the lowest
and grossest of all our senses, is fitly applied to the low
knowledge of God; though he be not far from every one of us -
We need not go far to seek or find him. He is very near us; in us.
It is only perverse reason which thinks he is afar off.
28. In him - Not in ourselves, we live, and move, and have our
being - This denotes his necessary, intimate, and most efficacious
presence. No words can better express the continual and necessary
dependence of all created beings, in their existence and all their
operations, on the first and almighty cause, which the truest
philosophy as well as divinity teaches. As certain also of your
own poets have said - Aratus, whose words these are, was an
Athenian, who lived almost three hundred years before this time.
They are likewise to be found, with the alteration of one letter
only, in the hymn of Cleanthes to Jupiter or the supreme being,
one of the purest and finest pieces of natural religion in the whole
world of Pagan antiquity.
29. We ought not to think - A tender expression especially in the
first per son plural. As if he had said, Can God himself be a less
noble being than we who are his offspring? Nor does he only here
deny, that these are like God, but that they have any analogy to
him at all, so as to be capable of representing him.
30. The times of ignorance - What! does he object ignorance to
the knowing Athenians? Yes, and they acknowledge it by this
very altar. God overlooked - As one paraphrases, "The beams of
his eye did in a manner shoot over it." He did not appear to take
notice of them, by sending express messages to them as he did to
the Jews. But now - This day, this hour, saith Paul, puts an end to
the Divine forbearance, and brings either greater mercy or
punishment. Now he commandeth all men every where to repent -
There is a dignity and grandeur in this expression, becoming an
ambassador from the King of heaven. And this universal demand
of repentance declared universal guilt in the strongest manner, and
admirably confronted the pride of the haughtiest Stoic of them all.
At the same time it bore down the idle plea of fatality. For how
could any one repent of doing what he could not but have done?
31. He hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world -
How fitly does he speak this, in their supreme court of justice? By
the man - So he speaks, suiting himself to the capacity of his
hearers. Whereof he hath given assurance to all men, in that he
hath raised him from the dead - God raising Jesus demonstrated
hereby, that he was to be the glorious Judge of all. We are by no
means to imagine that this was all which the apostle intended to
have said, but the indolence of some of his hearers and the
petulancy of others cut him short.
32. Some mocked - Interrupting him thereby. They took offense at
that which is the principal motive of faith, from the pride of
reason. And having once stumbled at this, they rejected all the
33. So Paul departed - Leaving his hearers divided in their
34. Among whom was even Dionysius the Areopagite - One of
the Judges of that court: on whom some spurious writings have
been fathered in later ages, by those who are fond of high
1. Paul departing from Athens - He did not stay there long. The
philosophers there were too easy, too indolent, and too wise in
their own eyes to receive the Gospel.
2. Claudius, the Roman emperor, had commanded all the Jews to
depart from Rome - All who were Jews by birth. Whether they
were Jews or Christians by religion, the Roman were too stately to
3. They were tent makers by trade - For it was a rule among the
Jews (and why is it not among the Christians?) to bring up all
their children to some trade, were they ever so rich or noble.
5. And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia -
Silas seems to have stayed a considerable time at Berea: but
Timotheus had come to the apostle while he was at Athens, and
been sent by him to comfort and confirm the Church at
Thessalonica, 1 Thess. iii, 1-5. But now at length both Silas and
Timotheus came to the apostle at Corinth. Paul was pressed in
spirit - The more probably from what Silas and Timotheus related.
Every Christian ought diligently to observe any such pressure in
his own spirit, and if it agree with Scripture, to follow it: if he
does not he will feel great heaviness.
6. He shook his raiment - To signify he would from that time
refrain from them: and to intimate, that God would soon shake
them off as unworthy to be numbered among his people. I am
pure - None can say this but he that has born a full testimony
against sin. From henceforth I will go to the Gentiles - But not to
them altogether. He did not break off all intercourse with the Jews
even at Corinth. Only he preached no more in their synagogue.
7. He went into the house of one named Justus - A Gentile, and
preached there, though probably he still lodged with Aquila.
8. And many hearing - The conversation of Crispus, and the
preaching of Paul.
10. I am with thee: therefore fear not all the learning, politeness,
grandeur, or power of the inhabitants of this city. Speak and hold
not thy peace - For thy labour shall not be in vain. For I have
much people in this city - So he prophetically calls them that
11. He continued there a year and six months - A long time! But
how few souls are now gained in a longer time than this? Who is
in the fault? Generally both teachers and hearers.
12. When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia - Of which Corinth was
the chief city. This Gallio, the brother of the famous Seneca, is
much commended both by him and by other writers, for the
sweetness and generosity of his temper, and easiness of his
behaviour. Yet one thing he lacked! But he knew it not and had no
concern about it.
15. But if it be - He speaks with the utmost coolness and
contempt, a question of names - The names of the heathen gods
were fables and shadows. But the question concerning the name
of Jesus is of more importance than all things else under heaven.
Yet there is this singularity (among a thousand others) in the
Christian religion, that human reason, curious as it is in all other
things, abhors to inquire into it.
17. Then they all took Sosthenes - The successor of Crispus, and
probably Paul's chief accuser, and beat him - It seems because he
had occasioned them so much trouble to no purpose, before the
judgment seat - One can hardly think in the sight of Gallio, though
at no great distance from him. And it seems to have had a happy
effect. For Sosthenes himself was afterward a Christian, 1 Cor. i,
18. Paul continued many days - After the year and six months, to
confirm the brethren. Aquila having shaved his head - As was the
custom in a vow, chap. xxi, 24; Num. vi, 18. At Cenchrea - A
seaport town, at a small distance from Corinth.
21. I must by all means keep the feast at Jerusalem - This was not
from any apprehension that he was obliged in conscience to keep
the Jewish feasts; but to take the opportunity of meeting a great
number of his countrymen to whom he might preach Christ, or
whom he might farther instruct, or free from the prejudices they
had imbibed against him. But I will return to you - So he did,
chap. xix, 1.
22. And landing at Cesarea, he went up - Immediately to
Jerusalem; and saluted the Church - Eminently so called, being
the mother Church of Christian believers: and having kept the
feast there, he went down from thence to Antioch.
23. He went over the country of Galatia and Phrygia - It is
supposed, spending about four years therein, including the time he
stayed at Ephesus.
24. An eloquent man, mighty in the Scriptures - Of the Old
Testament. Every talent may be of use in the kingdom of God, if
joined with the knowledge of the Scriptures and fervour of spirit.
25. This man had been instructed - Though not perfectly, in the
way of the Lord - In the doctrine of Christ. Knowing only the
baptism of John - Only what John taught those whom he baptized,
namely, to repent and believe in a Messiah shortly to appear.
26. He spake - Privately; and taught publicly. Probably he
returned to live at Alexandria, soon after he had been baptized by
John; and so had no opportunity of being fully acquainted with the
doctrines of the Gospel, as delivered by Christ and his apostles.
And explained to him the way of God more perfectly - He who
knows Christ, is able to instruct even those that are mighty in the
27. Who greatly helped through grace - It is through grace only
that any gift of any one is profitable to another. Them that had
believed - Apollos did not plant, but water. This was the peculiar
gift which he had received. And he was better able to convince the
Jews, than to convert the heathens.
1. Having passed through - Galatia and Phrygia, which were
termed the upper parts of Asia Minor. Certain disciples - Who had
been formerly baptized by John the Baptist, and since imperfectly
instructed in Christianity.
2. Have ye received the Holy Ghost? - The extraordinary gifts of
the Spirit, as well as his sanctifying graces? We have not so much
as heard - Whether there be any such gifts.
3. Into what were ye baptized - Into what dispensation? To the
sealing of what doctrine? Into John's baptism - We were baptized
by John and believe what he taught.
4. John baptized - That is, the whole baptism and preaching of
John pointed at Christ. After this John is mentioned no more in
the New Testament. Here he gives way to Christ altogether.
5. And hearing this, they were baptized - By some other. Paul
only laid his hands upon them. They were baptized - They were
baptized twice; but not with the same baptism. John did not
administer that baptism which Christ afterward commanded, that
is, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
9. The way - The Christian way of worshipping God. He departed
- Leaving them their synagogue to themselves. Discoursing daily -
Not on the Sabbath only, in the school of one Tyrannus - Which
we do not find was any otherwise consecrated, than by preaching
the Gospel there.
10. All who desired it among the inhabitants of the proconsular
Asia, now heard the word: St. Paul had been forbidden to preach
it in Asia before, chap. xvi, 6. But now the time was come.
11. Special miracles - Wrought in a very uncommon manner.
12. Evil spirits - Who also occasioned many of those diseases,
which yet might appear to be purely natural.
13. Exorcists - Several of the Jews about this time pretended to a
power of casting out devils, particularly by certain arts or charms,
supposed to be derived from Solomon. Undertook to name - Vain
undertaking! Satan laughs at all those who attempt to expel him
either out of the bodies or the souls of men but by Divine faith.
All the light of reason is nothing to the craft or strength of that
subtle spirit. His craft cannot be known but by the Spirit of God
nor can his strength be conquered but by the power of faith.
17. And the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified - So that even
the malice of the devil wrought for the furtherance of the Gospel.
18. Many came confessing - Of their own accord, and openly
declaring their deeds - The efficacy of God's word, penetrating the
inmost recesses of their soul, wrought that free and open
confession to which perhaps even torments would not have
19. Curious arts - Magical arts, to which that soft appellation was
given by those who practiced them. Ephesus was peculiarly
famous for these. And as these practices were of so much
reputation there, it is no wonder the books which taught them
should bear a great price. Bringing their books together - As it
were by common consent, burnt them - Which was far better than
selling them, even though the money had been given to the poor.
Fifty thousand pieces of silver - If these pieces of silver be taken
for Jewish shekels, the sum will amount to six thousand two
hundred and fifty pounds.
20. So powerfully did the word of God grow - In extent, and
prevail - In power and efficacy.
21. After these things were ended - Paul sought not to rest, but
pressed on, as if he had yet done nothing. He is already possessed
of Ephesus and Asia. He purposes for Macedonia and Achaia. He
has his eye upon Jerusalem, then upon Rome; afterward on Spain,
Rom. xv, 28. No Cesar, no Alexander the Great, no other hero,
comes up to the magnanimity of this little Benjamite. Faith and
love to God and man had enlarged his heart, even as the sand of
24. Silver shrines - Silver models of that famous temple, which
were bought not only by the citizens, but by strangers from all
parts. The artificers - The other silversmiths.
25. The workmen - Employed by him and them.
26. Saying, that they are not gods which are made with hands -
This manifestly shows, that the contrary opinion did then
generally prevail, namely, that there was a real Divinity in their
sacred images. Though some of the later heathens spoke of them
just as the Romanists do now.
27. There is danger, not only that this our craft [trade] should
come into disgrace, but also that the temple of the great goddess
Diana should be despised - No wonder a discourse should make
so deep an impression, which was edged both by interest and
superstition. The great goddess was one of the standing titles of
Diana. Her majesty destroyed - Miserable majesty, which was
capable of being thus destroyed! Whom all Asia and the world -
That is, the Roman empire, worshippeth - Although under a great
variety of titles and characters. But the multitude of those that err
does not turn error into truth.
29. They rushed with one accord - Demetrius and his company,
into the theatre - Where criminals were wont to be thrown to the
wild beasts, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus - When
they could not find Paul. Probably they hoped to oblige them to
fight with the wild beasts, as some think St. Paul had done before.
30. When Paul would have gone in to the people - Being above all
fear, to plead the cause of his companions, and prove they are not
gods which are made with hands.
31. The principal officers of Asia - The Asian priests, who
presided over the public games, which they were then celebrating
in honour of Diana.
32. The greater part did not know for what they were come
together - Which is commonly the case in such an assembly.
33. And they thrust forward - Namely, the artificers and workmen,
Alexander - Probably some well-known Christian whom they saw
in the crowd: the Jews pushing him on - To expose him to the
more danger. And Alexander waving with his hand - In token of
desiring silence, would have made a defense - For himself and his
34. But when they knew that he was a Jew - And consequently an
enemy to their worship of images; they prevented him, by crying,
Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
35. The register - Probably the chief governor of the public
games. The image which fell down from Jupiter - They believed
that very image of Diana, which stood in her temple, fell down
from Jupiter in heaven. Perhaps he designed to insinuate, as if
falling down from Jupiter, it was not made with hands, and so was
not that sort of idols which Paul had said were no gods.
37. Nor blasphemers of your goddess - They simply declared the
one God, and the vanity of idols in general.
38. There are proconsuls - One in every province. There was one
39. In a lawful assembly - In such a regular assembly as has
authority to judge of religious and political affairs.
40. This concourse - He wisely calls it by an inoffensive name.
1. After the tumult was ceased - So Demetrius gained nothing.
Paul remained there till all was quiet.
2. He came into Greece - That part of it which lay between
Macedonia and Achaia.
3. An ambush being laid for him - In his way to the ship.
4. To Asia - There some of them left him. But Trophimus went
with him to Jerusalem, chap. xxi, 29. Aristarchus, even to Rome,
chap. xxvii, 2.
6. We set sail - St. Luke was now with St. Paul again, as we learn
from his manner of expressing himself.
7. To break bread - That is, to celebrate the Lord's Supper;
continued his discourse - Through uncommon fervour of spirit.
8. There were many lamps in the room where they were
assembled - To prevent any possible scandal.
9. In the window - Doubtless kept open, to prevent heat, both
from the lamps and the number of people.
10. Paul fell or him - It is observable, our Lord never used this
gesture. But Elijah and Elisha did as well as Paul. His life is in
him - He is alive again.
11. So departed - Without taking any rest at all.
12. And they brought the young man alive - But alas! How many
of those who have allowed themselves to sleep under sermons, or
as it were to dream awake, have slept the sleep of eternal death,
and fallen to rise no more!
13. Being himself to go on foot - That he might enjoy the
company of his Christian brethren a little longer, although he had
passed the night without sleep, and though Assos was of difficult
and dangerous access by land.
14. Mitylene - Was a city and part of the isle of Lesbos, about
seven miles distant from the Asiatic coast.
16. For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus - Which lay on the
other side of the bay. He hasted to be at Jerusalem on the day of
pentecost - Because then was the greatest concourse of people.
17. Sending to Ephesus, he called the elders of the Church - These
are called bishops in the 28th verse, (rendered overseers in our
translation.) Perhaps elders and bishops were then the same; or no
otherwise different than are the rector of a parish and his curates.
18. Ye know - Happy is he who can thus appeal to the conscience
of his hearers.
19. Serving - See the picture of a faithful servant! The Lord -
Whose the church is, with all humility, and with tears, and trials -
These are the concomicants of it. The service itself is described
more particularly in the following verse. This humility he
recommends to the Ephesians themselves, Eph. iv, 2. His tears are
mentioned again, verse 31, as also 2 Cor. ii, 4; Phil. iii, 18. These
passages laid together supply us with the genuine character of St.
Paul. Holy tears, from those who seldom weep on account of
natural occurrences, are no mean specimen of the efficacy and
proof of the truth of Christianity. Yet joy is well consistent
therewith, ver. 24. The same person may be sorrowful, yet always
20. I have preached - Publicly; and taught - From house to house.
Else he had not been pure from their blood. For even an apostle
could not discharge his duty by public preaching only. How much
less can an ordinary pastor!
21. Repentance toward God - The very first motion of the soul
toward God is a kind of repentance.
22. Bound by the Spirit - Strongly impelled by him.
23. Save that - Only this I know in general; the Holy Ghost
witnesseth - By other persons. Such was God's good pleasure to
reveal these things to him, not immediately, but by the ministry of
24. Nor do I count my life precious - It adds great force to this and
all the other passages of Scripture, in which the apostles express
their contempt of the world, that they were not uttered by persons
like Seneca and Antoninus, who talked elegantly of despising the
world in the full affluence of all its enjoyments; but by men who
daily underwent the greatest calamities, and exposed their lives in
proof of their assertions.
25. Ye shall see my face no more - He wisely inserts this, that
what follows might make the deeper impression.
27. For I have not shunned - Otherwise if any had perished, their
blood would have been on his head.
28. Take heed therefore - I now devolve my care upon you; first
to yourselves; then to the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath
made you overseers - For no man, or number of men upon earth,
can constitute an overseer, bishop, or any other Christian minister.
To do this is the peculiar work of the Holy Ghost: to feed the
Church of God - That is, the believing, loving, holy children of
God; which he hath purchased - How precious is it then in his
sight! with his own blood - For it is the blood of the only begotten
Son of God, 1 John i, 7.
29. Grievous wolves - From without, namely, false apostles. They
had, not yet broke in on the Church at Ephesus.
30. Yea, from among yourselves men will arise - Such were the
Nicolaitans, of whom Christ complains, Rev. ii, 6; to draw away
disciples - From the purity of the Gospel and the unity of the
31. I ceased not to warn every one night and day - This was
watching indeed! Who copies after this example?
32. The word of his grace - It is the grand channel of it, to
believers as well as unbelievers. Who is able to build you up - To
confirm and increase your faith, love, holiness. God can thus build
us up, without any instrument. But he does build us up by them. O
beware of dreaming that you have less need of human teachers
after you know Christ than before! And to give you an inheritance
- Of eternal glory, among them that are sanctified - And so made
meet for it. A large number of these Paul doubtless knew, and
remembered before God.
33. I have coveted - Here the apostle begins the other branch of
his farewell discourse, like old Samuel, 1 Sam. xii, 3, taking his
leave of the children of Israel.
34. These hands - Callous, as you see, with labour. Who is he that
envies such a bishop or archbishop as this?
35. I have showed you - Bishops, by my example, all things - And
this among the rest; that thus labouring - So far as the labours of
your office allow you time; ye ought to help the weak - Those
who are disabled by sickness, or any bodily infirmity, from
maintaining themselves by their own labour. And to remember -
Effectually, so as to follow it; the word which he himself said -
Without doubt his disciples remembered many of his words which
are not recorded. It is happier to give - To imitate God, and have
him, as it were, indebted to us.
37. They all wept - Of old, men, yea, the best and bravest of men,
were easily melted into tears; a thousand instances of which might
be produced from profane as well as sacred writers. But now,
notwithstanding the effeminacy which almost universally prevails,
we leave those tears to women and children.
38. Sorrowing most for that word which he spake, that they
should see his face no more - What sorrow will be in the great
day, when God shall speak that word to all who are found on the
left hand, that they shall see his face no more!
1. And when we were torn away from the in - Not without doing
violence both to ourselves and them.
3. We landed at Tyre - That there should be Christians there was
foretold, Psalm lxxxvii, 4. What we read in that psalm of the
Philistines and Ethiopians also may be compared with chap. viii,
40; xxvii, 4.
4. And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days - ln order to
spend a Sabbath with them. Who told Paul by the Spirit - That
afflictions awaited him at Jerusalem. This was properly what they
said by the Spirit. They themselves advised him not to go up. The
disciples seemed to understand their prophetic impulse to be an
intimation from the Spirit, that Paul, if he were so minded, might
avoid the danger, by not going to Jerusalem.
7. Having finished our voyage - From Macedonia, chap. xx, 6, we
came to Ptolemais - A celebrated city on the sea coast, anciently
called Accos. It is now, like many other once noble cities, only a
heap of ruins.
8. We came to Cesarea - So called from a stately temple which
Herod the Great dedicated there to Augustus Cesar. It was the
place where the Roman governor of Judea generally resided and
kept his court. The evangelist, who was one of the seven deacons
- An evangelist is a preacher of the Gospel to those who had never
heard it, as Philip had done to the Samaritans, to the Ethiopian
eunuch, and to all the towns from Azotus to Cesarea, chap. viii, 5,
26, 40. It is not unlikely he spent the following years preaching in
Tyre and Sidon, and the other heathen cities in the neighbourhood
of Galilee, his house being at Cesarea, a convenient situation for
that purpose. We abode with him - We lodged at his house during
our stay at Cesarea.
10. A certain prophet came - The nearer the event was, the more
express were the predictions which prepared Paul for it.
11. Binding his own feet and hands - In the manner that
malefactors were wont to be bound when apprehended. So shall
the Jews bind the man whose girdle this is - St. Paul's bonds were
first particularly foretold at Cesarea, to which he afterward came
in bonds, chap. xxiii, 33.
12. Both we, (his fellow travelers,) and they of the place, besought
him not to go up to Jerusalem - St. Paul knew that this prediction
had the force of a command. They did not know this.
13. Breaking my heart - For the apostles themselves were not void
of human affections. I am ready not only to be bound, but to die -
And to him that is ready for it, the burden is light.
14. And when he would not be persuaded - This was not
obstinacy, but true Christian resolution. We should never be
persuaded, either to do evil, or to omit doing any good which is in
our power; saying, the will of the Lord be done - Which they were
satisfied Paul knew.
15. We took up our carriages - Our baggage; which probably went
by sea before. What they took with them now in particular was the
alms they were carrying to Jerusalem, chap. xxiv, 17.
16. The disciples brought us to one Mnason, a Cyprian, an old
disciple - He was a native of Cyprus, but an inhabitant of
Jerusalem, and probably one of the first converts there.
18. Paul went in with us - That it might appear we are all of one
mind, to James - Commonly called the Lord's brother; the only
apostle then presiding over the Churches in Judea.
20. They are all zealous for the law - For the whole Mosaic
dispensation. How astonishing is this! Did none of the apostles,
beside St. Paul, know that this dispensation was now abolished?
And if they did both know and testify this, how came their hearers
not to believe them?
21. They have been informed concerning thee, that thou teachest
the Jews - not to circumcise their children, nor to walk after the
customs - Of the Mosaic law. And so undoubtedly he did. And so
he wrote to all the Churches in Galatia, among whom were many
Jews. Yea, and James himself had long before assented to Peter,
affirming before all the apostles and all the brethren, chap. xv, 10,
That this very law was a yoke which (said he) neither our fathers
nor we were able to bear - Amazing! that they did not know this!
Or, that if they did, they did not openly testify it at all hazards, to
every Jewish convert in Jerusalem!
22. What is it therefore - What is to be done? The multitude must
needs come together - They will certainly gather together in a
tumultuous manner, unless they be some way pacified.
23. Therefore - To obviate their prejudice against thee: do this that
we say to thee - Doubtless they meant this advice well: but could
Paul follow it in godly sincerity? Was not the yielding so far to
the judgment of others too great a deference to be paid to any
24. And all will know - that thou thyself walkest orderly, keeping
the law - Ought he not, without any reverence to man, where the
truth of God was so deeply concerned, to have answered plainly, I
do not keep the Mosaic law; neither need any of you. Yea, Peter
doth not keep the law. And God himself expressly commanded
him not to keep it; ordering him to go in to men uncircumcised,
and to eat with them, chap. xi, 3, which the law utterly forbids.
26. Then Paul took the men - Yielding his own judgment to their
advice, which seemed to flow not out of spiritual but carnal
wisdom; seeming to be what he really was not: making as if he
believed the law still in force. Declaring - Giving notice to the
priests in waiting, that he designed to accomplish the days of
purification, till all the sacrifice should be offered, as the Mosaic
law required, Num. vi, 13.
27. And when the seven days were about to be accomplished -
When after giving notice to the priests, they were entering upon
the accomplishment of those days. It was toward the beginning of
them that Paul was seized. The Jews that were from Asia - Some
of those Jews who came from Asia to the feast.
28. Against the people - The Jewish nation; and the law - Of
Moses; and this place - The temple. Yea, and hath even brought
Greeks into the temple - They might come into the outer court.
But they imagined Paul had brought then into the inner temple,
and had thereby polluted it.
30. And immediately the gates were shut - Both to prevent any
farther violation of the temple; and to prevent Paul's taking
sanctuary at the horns of the altar.
31. And as they went about to kill him - It was a rule among the
Jews, that any uncircumcised person who came into the inner
temple, might be stoned without farther process. And they seemed
to think Paul, who brought such in thither, deserved no better
treatment. Word came to the tribune - A cohort or detachment of
soldiers, belonging to the Roman legion, which lodged in the
adjacent castle of Antonia, were stationed on feast days near the
temple, to prevent disorders. It is evident, Lysias himself was not
present, when the tumult began. Probably he was the oldest
Roman tribune (or colonel) then at Jerusalem. And as such he was
the commanding officer of the legion quartered at the castle.
33. Then the tribune - Having made his way through the
multitude, came near and took him - And how many great ends of
providence were answered by this imprisonment? This was not
only a means of preserving his life, (after he had suffered severely
for worldly prudence,) but gave him an opportunity of preaching
the Gospel safely, in spite of all tumult, chap. xxii, 22, yea, and
that in those places to which otherwise he could have had no
access, verse 40. And commanded him to be bound with two
chains - Taking it for granted he was some notorious offender.
And thus the prophecy of Agabus was fulfilled, though by the
hands of a Roman.
35. When he came upon the stairs - The castle of Antonia was
situate on a rock fifty cubits high, at that corner of the outward
temple, where the western and northern porticos joined, to each of
which there were stairs descending from it.
37. As Paul was about to be brought into the castle - The wisdom
of God taught to make use of that very time and place.
38. Art not thou that Egyptian - Who came into Judea when Felix
had been some years governor there! Calling himself a prophet, he
drew much people after him; and having brought them through
the wilderness, led them to Mount Olivet, promising that the walls
of the city should fall down before them. But Felix marching out
of Jerusalem against him, his followers quickly dispersed, many
of whom were taken or slain; but he himself made his escape.
40. In the Hebrew tongue - That dialect of it, which was then
commonly spoken at Jerusalem.
1. Hear ye now my defense - Which they could not hear before for
3. I am verily - This defense answers all that is objected, chap.
xxi, 28. As there, so here also mention is made of the person of
Paul, ver. 3, of the people and the law, ver. 3, 5, 12; of the temple,
ver. 17; of teaching all men, ver. 15-17, 21; and of the truth of his
doctrine, ver. 6. But he speaks closely and nervously, in few
words, because the time was short. But brought up at the feet of
Gamaliel - The scholars usually sat on low seats, or upon mats on
the floor, at the feet of their masters, whose seats were raised to a
considerable height. Accurately instructed - The learned education
which Paul had received was once no doubt the matter of his
boasting and confidence. Unsanctified learning made his bonds
strong, and furnished him with numerous arguments against the
Gospel. Yet when the grace of God had changed his heart, and
turned his accomplishments into another channel, he was the fitter
instrument to serve God's wise and merciful purposes, in the
defense and propagation of Christianity.
4. And persecuted this way - With the same zeal that you do now.
Binding both men and women - How much better was his
condition, now he was bound himself.
5. The high priest is my witness - Is able to testify. The brethren -
Jews: so this title was not peculiar to the Christians.
6. About noon - All was done in the face of the sun. A great light
shone - By whatever method God reveals himself to us, we shall
have everlasting cause to recollect it with pleasure. Especially
when he has gone in any remarkable manner out of his common
way for this gracious purpose. If so, we should often dwell on the
particular circumstances, and be ready, on every proper occasion,
to recount those wonders of power and love, for the
encouragement and instruction of others.
9. They did not hear the voice - Distinctly; but only a confused
12. A devout man according to the law - A truly religious person,
and though a believer in Christ, yet a strict observer of the law of
16. Be baptized, and wash away thy sins - Baptism administered
to real penitents, is both a means and seal of pardon. Nor did God
ordinarily in the primitive Church bestow this on any, unless
through this means.
17. When I was returned to Jerusalem - From Damascus, and was
praying in the temple - Whereby he shows that he still paid the
temple its due honour, as the house of prayer. I was in a trance -
Perhaps he might continue standing all the while, so that any who
were near him would hardly discern it.
18. And I saw him - Jesus, saying to me, Depart quickly out of
Jerusalem - Because of the snares laid for thee: and in order to
preach where they will hear.
19. And I said - It is not easy for a servant of Christ, who is
himself deeply impressed with Divine truths, to imagine to what a
degree men are capable of hardening their hearts against thee. He
is often ready to think with Paul, It is impossible for any to resist
such evidence. But experience makes him wiser and shows that
wilful unbelief is proof against all truth and reason.
20. When the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was
standing by - A real convert still retains the remembrance of his
former sins. He confesses thorn and is humbled for them, all the
days of his life.
22. And they heard him to this word - Till he began to speak of
his mission to the Gentiles, and this too in such a manner as
implied that the Jews were in danger of being cast off.
23. They rent their garments - In token of indignation and horror
at this pretended blasphemy, and cast dust into the air - Through
vehemence of rage, which they knew not how to vent.
25. And as they - The soldiers ordered by the tribune, were
binding him with thongs - A freeman of Rome might be bound
with a chain and beaten with a staff: but he might not be bound
with thongs, neither scourged, or beaten with rods: Paul said to
the centurion - The captain, who stood by to see the orders of the
26. Consider what thou art about to do; for this man is a Roman -
Yea, there was a stronger reason to consider. For this man was a
servant of God.
28. But I was free born - Not barely as being born at Tarsus; for
this was not Roman colony. But probably either his father, or
some of his ancestors, had been made free of Rome, for some
military service. We learn hence, that we are under no obligation
as Christians to give up our civil privileges (which we are to
receive and prize as the gift of God) to every insolent invader. In a
thousand circumstances, gratitude to God, and duty to men, will
oblige us to insist upon them; and engage us to strive to transmit
them improved, rather than impaired to posterity.
1. And Paul earnestly beholding the council - Professing a clear
conscience by his very countenance; and likewise waiting to see
whether any of them was minded to ask him any question, said, I
have lived in all good conscience before God till this day - He
speaks chiefly of the time since he became a Christian. For none
questioned him concerning what he had been before. And yet
even in his unconverted state, although he was in an error, yet he
had acted from conscience, before God - Whatever men may think
or say of me.
3. Then said Paul - Being carried away by a sudden and prophetic
impulse. God is about to smite thee, thou whited wall - Fair
without; full of dirt and rubbish within. And he might well be so
termed, not only as he committed this outrage, while gravely
sitting on the tribunal of justice but also as, at the same time that
he stood high in the esteem of the citizens, he cruelly defrauded
the priests of their legal subsistence, so that some of them even
perished for want. And God did remarkably smite him; for about
five years after this, his house being reduced to ashes, in a tumult
begun by his own son, he was besieged in the royal palace; where
having hid himself in an old aqueduct, he was dragged out and
5. I was not aware, brethren, that it was the high priest - He seems
to mean, I did not advert to it, in the prophetic transport of my
mind: but he does not add, that his not adverting to it proceeded
from the power of the Spirit coming upon him; as knowing they
were not able to bear it. This answer admirably shows the
situation of mind he was then in, partly with regard to the
bystanders, whom he thus softens, adding also the title of
brethren, and justifying their reproof by the prohibition of Moses;
partly with regard to himself, who, after that singular transport
subsided, was again under the direction of the general command.
Exod. xxii, 28.
6. I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: for the hope of the
resurrection of the dead am I called in question - So he was in
effect; although not formally, or explicitly.
8. The Pharisees confess both - Both the resurrection, and the
existence of angels and separate spirits.
9. And the scribes of the Pharisees' side arising - Every sect
contains both learned and unlearned. The former used to be the
mouth of the party. If a spirit - St. Paul in his speech from the
stairs had affirmed, that Jesus, whom they knew to have been
dead, was alive, and that he had spoken to him from heaven, and
again in a vision. So they add nothing, only they construe it in
their own way, putting an angel or spirit for Jesus.
11. And the night following, the Lord Jesus - What Paul had
before purposed in spirit, chap. xix, 21, God now in due time
confirms. Another declaration to the same effect is made by an
angel of God, chap. xxvii, 23. And from the 23rd chapter the sum
of this book turns on the testimony of Paul to the Romans. How
would the defenders of St. Peter's supremacy triumph, could they
find out half as much ascribed to him! Be of good courage, Paul -
As he laboured under singular distresses and persecutions, so he
was favoured with extraordinary assurances of the Divine
assistance. Thou must testify - Particular promises are usually
given when all things appear desperate. At Rome also - Danger is
nothing in the eyes of God: all hindrances farther his work. A
promise of what is afar off, implies all that necessarily lies
between. Paul shall testify at Rome: therefore he shall come to
Rome; therefore he shall escape the Jews, the sea, the viper.
12. Some of the Jews bound themselves - Such execrable vows
were not uncommon among the Jews. And if they were prevented
from accomplishing what they had vowed, it was an easy matter
to obtain absolution from their rabbis.
15. Now therefore ye - Which they never scrupled at all, as not
doubting but they were doing God service.
17. And Paul - Though he had an express promise of it from
Christ, was not to neglect any proper means of safety.
19. And the tribune taking him by the hand - In a mild,
condescending way. Lysias seems to have conducted this whole
affair with great integrity, humanity, and prudence.
24. Provide beasts - If a change should be necessary, to set Paul
on - So we read of his riding once; but not by choice.
27. Having learned that he was a Roman - True; but not before he
rescued him. Here he uses art.
31. The soldiers brought him by night to Antipatris - But not the
same night they set out. For Antipatris was about thirty-eight of
our miles northwest of Jerusalem. Herod the Great rebuilt it, and
gave it this name in honour of his father Antipater: Cesarea was
near seventy miles from Jerusalem, and about thirty from
35. In Herod's palace - This was a palace and a court built by
Herod the Great. Probably some tower belonging to it might be
used for a kind of state prison.
1. Ananias - Who would spare no trouble on the occasion, with
several of the elders, members of the sanhedrim.
2. Tertullus began - A speech how different from St. Paul's; which
is true, modest, solid, and without paint. Felix was a man of the
most infamous character, and a plague to all the provinces over
which he presided.
4. But that I may not trouble thee any farther - By trespassing
either on thy patience or modesty. The eloquence of Tertullus was
as bad as his cause: a lame introduction, a lame transition, and a
lame conclusion. Did not God confound the orator's language?
10. Knowing - for several years thou hast been a judge over this
nation - And so not unacquainted with our religious rites and
customs, and consequently more capable of understanding and
deciding a cause of this nature. There was no flattery in this. It
was a plain fact. He governed Judea six or seven years. I answer
for myself - As it may be observed, his answer exactly
corresponds with the three articles of Tertullus's charge: sedition,
heresy, and profanation of the temple. As to the first, he suggests,.
that he had not been long enough at Jerusalem to form a party and
attempt an insurrection: (for it was about twelve days since he
came up thither; five of which he had been at Cesarea, ver. 1; one
or two were spent in his journey thither, and most of the rest he
had been confined at Jerusalem.) And he challenges them, in fact,
to produce any evidence of such practices, ver. 11-13. As to the
second, he confesses himself to be a Christian; but maintains this
to be a religion perfectly agreeable to the law and the prophets,
and therefore deserving a fair reception, ver. 14, 16. And as for
profaning the temple, he observes that he behaved there in a most
peaceful and regular manner, so that his innocence had been
manifest even before the sanhedrim, where the authors of the
tumult did not dare to appear against him.
14. After the way which they call heresy - This appellation St.
Paul corrects. Not that it was then an odious word; but it was not
honourable enough. A party or sect (so that word signifies) is
formed by men. This way was prescribed by God. The apostle had
now said what was sufficient for his defense; but having a fair
occasion, he makes an ingenuous confession of his faith in this
verse, his hope in the next, his love in the 17th. ver. 14, 15, 17 So
worship I the God of my fathers - This was a very proper plea
before a Roman magistrate; as it proved that he was under the
protection of the Roman laws, since the Jews were so: whereas
had he introduced the worship of new gods he would have
forfeited that protection. Believing all things which are written -
Concerning the Messiah.
15. Both of the just and of the unjust - In a public court this was
peculiarly proper to be observed.
16. For this cause - With a view to this, I also exercise myself - As
well as they.
19. Who ought to have been present before thee - But the world
never commit greater blunders, even against its own laws, than
when it is persecuting the children of God.
21. Unless they think me blamable for this one word - Which
nevertheless was the real truth. chap. xxiii, 6.
22. After I have been more accurately informed - Which he
afterward was; and he doubtless (as well as Festus and Agrippa)
transmitted a full account of these things to Rome.
23. He commanded the centurion to let him have liberty - To be
only a prisoner at large. Hereby the Gospel was spread more and
more; not to the satisfaction of the Jews. But they could not hinder
24. And after Paul had been kept some days in this gentle
confinement at Cesarea, Felix, who had been absent for a short
time, coming thither again, with Drusilla, his wife - The daughter
of Herod Agrippa, one of the finest women of that age. Felix
persuaded her to forsake her husband, Azizus, king of Emessa,
and to be married to himself, though a heathen. She was
afterward, with a son she had by Felix, consumed in an eruption
of Mount Vesuvius. Concerning the faith in Christ - That is, the
doctrine of Christ.
25. And as he reasoned of justice, temperance, and judgment to
come - This was the only effectual way of preaching Christ to an
unjust, lewd judge. Felix being terrified - How happily might this
conviction have ended, had he been careful to pursue the views
which were then opening upon his mind! But, like thousands, he
deferred the consideration of these things to a more convenient
season. A season which, alas! never came. For though he heard
again, he was terrified no more. In the meantime we do not find
Drusilla, though a Jewess, was thus alarmed. She had been used to
hear of a future judgment: perhaps too she trusted to the being a
daughter of Abraham, or to the expiation of the law, and so was
proof against the convictions which seized on her husband,
though a heathen. Let this teach us to guard against all such false
dependencies as tend to elude those convictions that might
otherwise be produced in us by the faithful preaching of the word
of God. Let us stop our ears against those messengers of Satan,
who appear as angels of light; who would teach us to reconcile the
hope of salvation with a corrupt heart or an unholy life. Go thy
way for this time - O how will every damned soul one day lament
his having neglected such a time as this!
26. He hoped also - An evil hope: so when he heard his eye was
not single. No marvel then that he profited nothing by all St.
Paul's discourses: that money would be given - By the Christians
for the liberty of so able a minister. And waiting for this, unhappy
Felix fell short of the treasure of the Gospel.
27. But after two years - After St. Paul had been two years a
prisoner, Felix desiring to gratify the Jews, left Paul bound - Thus
men of the world, to gratify one another, stretch forth their hands
to the things of God! Yet the wisdom of Felix did not profit him,
did not satisfy the Jews at all. Their accusations followed him to
Rome, and had utterly ruined him, but for the interest which his
brother Pallas had with Nero.
2. Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews appeared against
Paul - In so long a time their rage was not cooled. So much louder
a call had Paul to the Gentiles.
4. But Festus answered - So Festus's care to preserve the imperial
privileges was the means of preserving Paul's life. By what
invisible springs does God govern the world! With what silence,
and yet with what wisdom and energy!
5. Let those of you who are able - Who are best able to undertake
the journey, and to manage the cause. If there be any wickedness
in him - So he does not pass sentence before he hears the cause.
6. Not more than ten days - A short space for a new governor to
stay at such a city as Jerusalem. He could not with any
convenience have heard and decided the cause of Paul within that
7. Bringing many accusations - When many accusations are
heaped together, frequently not one of them is true.
8. While he answered - To a general charge a general answer was
9. Art thou willing to go up to Jerusalem - Festus could have
ordered this without asking Paul. But God secretly overruled the
whole, that he might have an occasion of appealing to Rome.
10. I am standing at Cesar's judgment seat - For all the courts of
the Roman governors were held in the name of the emperor, and
by commission from him. No man can give me up - He expresses
it modestly: the meaning is, Thou canst not. I appeal to Cesar -
Which any Roman citizen might do before sentence was passed.
12. The council - It was customary for a considerable number of
persons of distinction to attend the Roman governors. These
constituted a kind of council, with whom they frequently advised.
13. Agrippa - The son of Herod Agrippa, chap. xii, 1; and Bernice
- His sister, with whom he lived in a scandalous familiarity. This
was the person whom Titus Vespasian so passionately loved, that
he would have made her empress, had not the clamours of the
Roman prevented it.
15. Desiring judgment against him - As upon a previous
conviction, which they falsely pretended.
16. It is not the custom of the Roman - How excellent a rule, to
condemn no one unheard! A rule, which as it is common to all
nations, (courts of inquisition only excepted,) so it ought to direct
our proceedings in all affairs, not only in public, but private life.
18. Such things as I supposed - From their passion and
19. But had certain questions - How coldly does he mention the
things of the last importance! And about one Jesus - Thus does
Festus speak of Him, to whom every knee shall bow! Whom Paul
affirmed to be alive - And was this a doubtful question? But why,
O Festus, didst thou doubt concerning it? Only because thou didst
not search into the evidence of it. Otherwise that evidence might
have opened to thee, till it had grown up into full conviction; and
thy illustrious prisoner have led thee into the glorious liberty of
the children of God.
23. With the tribunes and principal men of the city - The chief
officers, both military and civil.
XXVI And Paul stretching forth his hand - Chained as it was: a
decent expression of his own earnestness, and proper to engage
the attention of his hearers; answered for himself - Not only
refuting the accusations of the Jews, but enlarging upon the faith
of the Gospel.
2. King Agrippa - There is a peculiar force in thus addressing a
person by name. Agrippa felt this.
3. Who art accurately acquainted - Which Festus was not; with the
customs - In practical matters; and questions - In speculative. This
word Festus had used in the absence of Paul, chap. xxv, 19, who,
by the Divine leading, repeats and explains it. Agrippa had had
peculiar advantages for an accurate knowledge of the Jewish
customs and questions, from his education under his father Herod,
and his long abode at Jerusalem. Nothing can be imagined more
suitable or more graceful, than this whole discourse of Paul before
Agrippa; in which the seriousness of the Christian, the boldness of
the apostle, and the politeness of the gentleman and the scholar,
appear in a most beautiful contrast, or rather a most happy union.
4. From my youth, which was from the beginning - That is, which
was from the beginning of my youth.
5. If they would testify - But they would not, for they well knew
what weight his former life must add to his present testimony.
6. And now - This and the two following verses are in a kind of
ver. 6, 7, 8 parenthesis, and show that what the Pharisees rightly
taught concerning the resurrection, Paul likewise asserted at this
day. The ninth verse is connected with the fifth. For Pharisaism
ver. 9, 5 impelled him to persecute. I stand in judgment for the
hope of the promise - Of the resurrection. So it was in effect. For
unless Christ had risen, there could have been no resurrection of
the dead. And it was chiefly for testifying the resurrection of
Christ, that the Jews still persecuted him.
7. Our twelve tribes - For a great part of the ten tribes also had at
various times returned from the east to their own country, James i,
1; 1 Pet. i, 1. Worshipping continually night and day - That is, this
is what they aim at in all their public and private worship.
8. Is it judged by you an incredible thing - It was by Festus, chap.
xxv, 19, to whom Paul answers as if he had heard him discourse.
9. I thought - When I was a Pharisee: that I ought to do many
things - Which he now enumerates.
10. I shut up many of the saints - Men not only innocent, but
good, just, holy. I gave my vote against them - That is, I joined
with those who condemned them. Perhaps the chief priests did
also give him power to vote on these occasions.
11. I compelled them - That is, some of them; to blaspheme - This
is the most dreadful of all! Repent, ye enemies of the Gospel. If
Spira, who was compelled, suffered so terribly, what will become
of those who compel, like Saul, but do not repent like him.
12. Acts ix, 2.
13. O King - Most seasonably, in the height of the narration, does
he thus fix the king's attention. Above the brightness of the sun -
And no marvel. For what is the brightness of this created sun, to
the Sun of righteousness, the brightness of the Father's glory?
14. In the Hebrew tongue - St. Paul was not now speaking in
Hebrew: when he was, chap. xxiii, 7, he did not add, In the
Hebrew tongue. Christ used this tongue both on earth and from
17. Delivering thee from the people - The Jews and the Gentiles,
to whom, both Jews and Gentiles, I now send thee - Paul gives
them to know, that the liberty he enjoys even in bonds, was
promised to him, as well as his preaching to the Gentiles. I,
denotes the authority of the sender. Now, the time whence his
mission was dated. For his apostleship, as well as his conversion,
commenced at this moment.
18. To open - He opens them, who sends Paul; and he does it by
Paul who is sent; their eyes - Both of the Jews and Gentiles: that
they may turn - Through the power of the Almighty, from the
spiritual darkness wherein they were involved, to the light of
Divine knowledge and holiness, and from the power of Satan,
who now holds them in sin, guilt, and misery, to the love and
happy service of God: that they may receive through faith - (He
seems to place the same blessings in a fuller light,) pardon,
holiness, and glory.
19. From that time - Having received power to obey, I was not
disobedient - I did obey, I used that power, Gal. i, 16. So that even
this grace whereby St Paul was influenced was not irresistible.
20. I declared - From that hour to this, both to Jew and Gentile,
that they should repent - This repentance, we may observe, is
previous both to inward and outward holiness.
21. For these things - The apostle now applies all that he had said.
22. Having obtained help from God - When all other help failed,
God sent the Roman from the castle, and so fulfilled the promise
he had made, ver. 17.
24. Festus said, Paul, thou art beside thyself - To talk of men's
rising from the dead! And of a Jew's enlightening not only his
own nation, but tho polite and learned Greeks and Romans! Nay,
Festus, it is thou that art beside thyself. That strikest quite wide of
the mark. And no wonder: he saw that nature did not act in Paul;
but the grace that acted in him he did not see. And therefore he
took all this ardour which animated the apostle for a mere start of
25. I am not mad, most excellent Festus - The style properly
belonging to a Roman propretor. How inexpressibly beautiful is
this reply! How strong! yet how decent and respectful! Mad men
seldom call men by their names, and titles of honour. Thus also
St. Paul refutes the charge. But utter the words of truth (confirmed
in the next verse) and sobriety - The very reverse of madness. And
both these remain, even when the men of God act with the utmost
26. For the king knoweth of these things - St. Paul having refuted
Festus, pursues his purpose, returning naturally, and as it were,
step by step, from Festus to Agrippa. To whom I speak with
freedom - This freedom was probably one circumstance which
Festus accounted madness.
27. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? - He that believes
these, believes Paul, yea, and Christ. The apostle now comes close
to his heart. What did Agrippa feel when he heard this? I know
that thou believest! - Here Paul lays so fast hold on the king that
he can scarce make any resistance.
28. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be
a Christian! - See here, Festus altogether a heathen, Paul alogether
a Christian, Agrippa halting between both. Poor Agrippa! But
almost persuaded! So near the mark, and yet fall short! Another
step, and thou art within the vail. Reader, stop not with Agrippa;
but go on with Paul.
29. I would to God - Agrippa had spoke of being a Christian, as a
thing wholly in his own power. Paul gently corrects this mistake;
intimating, it is the gift and the work of God; that all that hear me
- It was modesty in St. Paul, not to apply directly to them all; yet
he looks upon them and observes them; were such as I am -
Christians indeed; full of righteousness, peace, and joy in the
Holy Ghost. He speaks from a full sense of his own happiness,
and an overflowing love to all.
30. And as he said this, the king rose up - An unspeakably
precious moment to Agrippa. Whether he duly improved it or no,
we shall see in that day.
31. This man doth nothing worthy of death, or of bonds - They
speak of his whole life, not of one action only. And could ye learn
nothing more than this from that discourse? A favourable
judgment of such a preacher, is not all that God requires.
1. As soon as it was determined to sail - As being a shorter and
less expensive passage to Rome.
2. Adramyttium - was a sea port of Mysia. Aristarchus and Luke
went with Paul by choice, not being ashamed of his bonds.
3. Julius treating Paul courteously - Perhaps he had heard him
make his defense.
4. We sailed under Cyprus - Leaving it on the left hand.
7. Cnidus - was a cape and city of Caria.
8. The Fair Havens still retain the name. But the city of Lasea is
now utterly lost, together with many more of the hundred cities
for which Crete was once so renowned.
9. The fast, or day of atonement, was kept on the tenth of Tisri,
that is, the
25th of September. This was to them an ill time of sailing; not
only because winter was approaching, but also because of the
sudden storms, which are still common in the Mediterranean at
that time of the year. Paul exhorted them - Not to leave Crete.
Even in external things, faith exerts itself with the greatest
presence of mind, and readiness of advice.
10. Saying to them - To the centurion and other officers.
11. The centurion regarded the master - And indeed it is a general
rule, believe an artificer in his own art. Yet when there is the
greatest need, a real Christian will often advise even better than
12. Which is a haven - Having a double opening, one to the
southwest, the other to the northwest.
14. There arose against it - The south wind; a tempestuous wind,
called in those parts Euroclydon. This was a kind of hurricane, not
carrying them any one way, but tossing them backward and
forward. These furious winds are now called levanters, and blow
in all directions from the northeast to the southeast.
16. We were hardly able to get masters of the boat - To prevent its
18. They lightened the ship - Casting the heavy goods into the sea.
19. We cast out the tackling of the ship - Cutting away even those
masts that were not absolutely necessary.
20. Neither sun nor stars appeared for many days - Which they
could the less spare, before the compass was found out.
21. This loss - Which is before your eyes.
23. The God whose I am, and whom I serve - How short a
compendium of religion! Yet how full! Comprehending both
faith, hope, and love.
24. God hath given - Paul had prayed for them. And God gave
him their lives; perhaps their souls also. And the centurion,
subserving the providence of God, gave to Paul the lives of the
prisoners. How wonderfully does his providence reign in the most
contingent things! And rather will many bad men be preserved
with a few good, (so it frequently happens,) than one good man
perish with many bad. So it was in this ship: so it is in the world.
Thee - At such a time as this, there was not the same danger,
which might otherwise have been, of St. Paul's seeming to speak
out of vanity, what he really spoke out of necessity. All the souls -
Not only all the prisoners, as Julius afterward did, ver. 43; ask for
souls, they shall be given thee: yea, more than thou hopest for,
that sail with thee - So that Paul, in the sight of God, was the
master and pilot of the ship.
27. The fourteenth night - Since they left Crete, ver. 18, 19. In the
Adriatic sea - So the ancients called all that part of the
Mediterranean, which lay south of Italy.
30. The sailors were attempting to flee out of the ship - Supposing
the boat would go more safely over the shallows.
31. Unless these mariners abide in the ship - Without them ye
know not how to manage her, ye cannot be saved - He does not
say we. That they would not have regarded. The soldiers were not
careful for the lives of the prisoners: nor was Paul careful for his
own. We may learn hence, to use the most proper means for
security and success, even while we depend on Divine
Providence, and wait for the accomplishment of God's own
promise. He never designed any promise should encourage
rational creatures to act in an irrational manner; or to remain
inactive, when he has given them natural capacities of doing
something, at least, for their own benefit. To expect the
accomplishment of any promise, without exerting these, is at best
vain and dangerous presumption, if all pretense of relying upon it
be not profane hypocrisy.
33. Ye continue fasting, having taken nothing - No regular meal,
through a deep sense of their extreme danger. Let us not wonder
then, if men who have a deep sense of their extreme danger of
everlasting death, for a time forget even to eat their bread, or to
attend to their worldly affairs. Much less let us censure that as
madness, which may be the beginning of true wisdom.
34. This is for your preservation - That ye may be the better able
to swim to shore.
36. Then they were all encouraged - By his example, as well as
38. Casting out the wheat - So firmly did they now depend on
what St. Paul had said.
39. They did not know the land - Which they saw near them:
having a level shore.
40. Loosing the rudder bands - Their ships had frequently two
rudders, one on each side. were fastened while they let the ship
drive; but were now loosened, when they had need of them to
steer her into the creek.
41. A place where two seas met - Probably by reason of a sand
bank running parallel with the shore.
42. The counsel - Cruel, unjust, ungrateful.
44. They all escaped safe to land - And some of them doubtless
received the apostle as a teacher sent from God. These would find
their deliverance from the fury of the sea, but an earnest of an
infinitely greater deliverance, and are long ere this lodged with
him in a more peaceful harbour than Malta, or than the earth could
1. Melita or Malta, is about twelve miles broad, twenty long, and
sixty distant from Sicily to the south. It yields abundance of
honey, (whence its name was taken,) with much cotton, and is
very fruitful, though it has only three feet depth of earth above the
solid rock. The Emperor Charles the Fifth gave it, in 1530, to the
knights of Rhodes, driven out of Rhodes by the Turks. They are a
thousand in number, of whom five hundred always reside on the
2. And the barbarians - So the Roman and Greeks termed all
nations but their own. But surely the generosity shown by these
uncultivated inhabitants of Malta, was far more valuable than all
the varnish which the politest education could give, where it
taught not humanity and compassion.
4. And when the barbarians saw - they said - Seeing also his
chains, Doubtless this man is a murderer - Such rarely go
unpunished even in this life; whom vengeance hath not suffered to
live - They look upon him as a dead man already. It is with
pleasure that we trace among these barbarians the force of
conscience, and the belief of a particular providence: which some
people of more learning have stupidly thought it philosophy to
despise. But they erred in imagining, that calamities must always
be interpreted as judgments. Let us guard against this, lest, like
them, we condemn not only the innocent, but the excellent of the
5. Having shaken off the venomous animal, he suffered no harm -
The words of an eminent modern historian are, "No venomous
kind of serpent now breeds in Malta, neither hurts if it be brought
thither from another place. Children are seen there handling and
playing even with scorpions; I have seen one eating them." If this
be so, it seems to be fixed by the wisdom of God, as an eternal
memorial of what he once wrought there.
6. They changed their minds, and said he was a God - Such is the
stability of human reason! A little before he was a murderer; and
presently he is a God: (just as the people of Lystra; one hour
sacrificing, and the next stoning:) nay, but there is a medium. He
is neither a murderer nor a God, but a man of God. But natural
men never run into greater mistakes, than in judging of the
children of God.
7. The chief man of the island - In wealth if not in power also.
Three days - The first three days of our stay on the island.
11. Whose sign was - It was the custom of the ancients to have
images on the head of their ships, from which they took their
names. Castor and Pollux - Two heathen gods who were thought
favourable to mariners.
15. The brethren - That is, the Christians, came out thence to meet
us - It is remarkable that there is no certain account by whom
Christianity was planted at Rome. Probably some inhabitants of
that city were at Jerusalem on the day of pentecost, chap. ii, 10;
and being then converted themselves, carried the Gospel thither at
their return. Appii-Forum was a town fifty-one miles from Rome;
the Three Taverns about thirty. He took courage - He saw Christ
was at Rome also, and now forgot all the troubles of his journey.
16. With the soldier - To whom he was chained, as the Roman
17. And after three days - Given to rest and prayer, Paul called the
chief of the Jews together - He always sought the Jews first; but
being now bound, he could not so conveniently go round to them.
Though I have done nothing - Seeing him chained, they might
have suspected he had. Therefore he first obviates this suspicion.
19. When the Jews opposed it - He speaks tenderly of them, not
mentioning their repeated attempts to murder him. Not that I had
any thing to accuse my nation of - Not that I had any design to
accuse others, but merely to defend myself.
20. The hope of Israel - What Israel hopes for, namely, the
Messiah and the resurrection.
21. We have neither received letters concerning thee - There must
have been a peculiar providence in this, nor has any of the
brethren - The Jews, related - Professedly, in a set discourse, or
spoke - Occasionally, in conversation, any evil of thee - How
must the bridle then have been in their mouth!
22. This sect we know is every where spoken against - This is no
proof at all of a bad cause, but a very probable mark of a good
23. To whom he expounded, testifying the kingdom of God, and
persuading them concerning Jesus - These were his two grand
1. That the kingdom of the Messiah was of a spiritual, not
2. That Jesus of Nazareth was the very person foretold, as the
Lord of that kingdom. On this head he had as much need to
persuade as to convince, their will making as strong a resistance
as their understanding.
24. And some believed the things that were spoken - With the
heart, as well as understanding.
25. Well spake the Holy Ghost to your fathers - Which is equally
applicable to you.
26. Hearing ye shall hear - That is, ye shall most surely hear, and
shall not understand - The words manifestly denote a judicial
blindness, consequent upon a wilful and obstinate resistance of
the truth. First they would not, afterward they could not, believe.
Isaiah vi, 9, &c.; Matt. xiii, 14; John xii, 40.
28. The salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles - Namely, from
this time. Before this no apostle had been at Rome. St. Paul was
30. And Paul continued two whole years - After which this book
was written, long before St. Paul's death, and was undoubtedly
published with his approbation by St. Luke, who continued with
him to the last, 2 Tim. iv, 11. And received all that came to him -
Whether they were Jews or Gentiles. These two years completed
twenty-five years after our saviour's passion. Such progress had
the Gospel made by that time, in the parts of the world which lay
west of Jerusalem, by the ministry of St. Paul among the Gentiles.
How far eastward the other apostles had carried it in the same
time, history does not inform us.
31. No man forbidding him - Such was the victory of the word of
God. While Paul was preaching at Rome, the Gospel shone with
its highest lustre. Here therefore the Acts of the Apostles end; and
end with great advantage. Otherwise St. Luke could easily have
continued his narrative to the apostle's death.
ST PAUL'S EPISTLE TO
MANY of the writings of the New Testament are written in the
form of epistles. Such are not only those of St. Paul, James, Peter,
Jude, but also both the treatises of St. Luke, and all the writings of
St. John. Nay, we have seven epistles herein which the Lord Jesus
himself sent by the hand of John to the seven churches; yea, the
whole Rev. is no other than an epistle from Him. Concerning the
epistles of St. Paul, we may observe, he writes in a very different
manner to those churches which he had planted himself, and to
those who had not seen his face in the flesh. In his letters to the
former, a loving or sharp familiarity appears, as their behaviour
was more or less suitable to the gospel. To the latter, he proposes
the pure, unmixed gospel, in a more general and abstract manner.
As to the time wherein he wrote his epistles, it is probable he
wrote about the year of Christ, according to the common
reckoning, 48 From Corinth, The Epistle to the Thessalonians. 49
From Phrygia, To the Galatians. 52 From Ephesus, The First to
the Corinthians. From Troas, The First Epistle to Timothy. From
Macedonia,The Second to the Corinthians, and that to Titus. From
Corinth, To the Romans. 57 From Rome, To the Philippians, to
Philemon, the Ephesians, and Colossians. 53 From Italy, To the
Hebrews. 66 From Rome, The Second to Timothy. As to the
general epistles, it seems, St. James wrote a little before his death,
which was A. D. 63. St. Peter, who was martyred in the year 67,
wrote his latter epistle a little before his death, and not long after
his former. St. Jude wrote after him, when the mystery of iniquity
was gaining ground swiftly. St. John is believed to have wrote all
his epistles a little before his departure. The Revelation he wrote
A. D. 96. That St. Paul wrote this epistle from Corinth we may
learn from his commending to the Roman Phebe, a servant of the
church of Cenchrea, chap. xvi, 1, a port of Corinth; and from his
mentioning the salutations of Caius and Erastus, chap. xvi, 23,
who were both Corinthians. Those to whom he wrote seem to
have been chiefly foreigners, both Jews and gentiles, whom
business drew from other provinces; as appears, both by his
writing in Greek, and by his salutations of several former
acquaintance. His chief design herein is to show,
1, That neither the gentiles by the law of nature, nor the Jews by
the law of Moses, could obtain justification before God; and that
therefore it was necessary for both to seek it from the free mercy
of God by faith.
2, That God has an absolute right to show mercy on what terms he
pleases, and to withhold it from those who will not accept it on his
This Epistle consists of five parts: -
I. The introduction, C.i.1-15
II. The proposition briefly proved,
1. Concerning faith and justification,
2. Concerning salvation,
3. Concerning the equality of believers, Jews or gentiles, 16-17
To these three parts, whereof
The first is treated of, C.i.18-iv.
The second, C.v-viii.
The third, C.ix.-xi not only the treatise itself, but also the
exhortation, answers in the same order.
III. The treatise,
1. Concerning justification, which is,
(1.) Not by works, for C.i.18
The gentiles, C.ii.1-10
` The Jews, and 11-29
Both together are under sin, C.iii.1-20
(2.) But by faith, 21-31 as appears by the example of Abraham,
and the testimony of David, C.iv.1-25
2. Concerning salvation, C.v.-viii.
3. Concerning the equal privileges of Jewish and gentile believers,
IV. The exhortation, C.xii.1-2
1. Concerning faith and its fruits, love and practical holiness, 3-21
2. Concerning salvation, 11-14
3. Of the conjunction of Jews and gentiles,. C.xiv.1-xv.13
V. The conclusion, 14-xvi.25
To express the design and contents of this epistle a little more at
large: The apostle labours throughout to fix in those to whom he
writes a deep sense of the excellency of the gospel, and to engage
them to act suitably to it. For this purpose, after a general
salutation, chap. i, 1-7, and profession of his affection for them,
chap. i, 8-15, he declares he shall not be ashamed openly to
maintain the gospel at Rome, seeing it is the powerful instrument
of salvation, both to Jews and gentiles, by means of faith, chap. i,
16, 17. And, in order to demonstrate this, he shows,
1. That the world greatly needed such a dispensation, the gentiles
being in a most abandoned state, chap. i, 18-32, and the Jews,
though condemning others, being themselves no better, chap. ii, 1-
29; as, not withstanding some cavils, which he obviates, chap. iii,
1-8, their own scriptures testify, chap. iii, 9-19. So that all were
under a necessity of seeking justification by this method, chap. iii,
2. That Abraham and David themselves sought justification by
faith, and not by works, chap. iv, 1-25.
3. That all who believe are brought into so happy a state, as turns
the greatest afflictions into a matter of joy, chap. v, 1-11.
4. That the evils brought on mankind by Adam are abundantly
recompensed to all that believe in Christ, chap. v, 12-21.
5. That, far from dissolving the obligations to practical holiness,
the gospel increases them by peculiar obligations, chap. vi, 1-23.
In order to convince them of these things the more deeply, and to
remove their fondness for the Mosaic law, now they were married
to Christ by faith in him, chap. vii, 1-6, he shows how unable the
motives of the law were to produce that holiness which believers
obtain by a living faith in the gospel, chap. vii, 7-25, viii, 1, 2, and
then gives a more particular view of those things which rendered
the gospel effectual to this great end, chap. viii, 3-39. That even
the gentiles, if they believed, should have a share in these
blessings, and that the Jews, if they believed not, should be
excluded from them, being a point of great importance, the
apostle bestows the ninth, tenth, and eleventh chapters in settling
it. He begins the ninth chapter by expressing his tender love and
high esteem for the Jewish nation, chap. ix, 1-5, and then shows,
1. That God's rejecting great part of the seed of Abraham, yea,
and of Isaac too, was undeniable fact, chap. ix, 6-13.
2. That God had not chosen them to such peculiar privileges for
any kind of goodness either in them or their fathers, chap. ix, 14-
3. That his accepting the gentiles, and rejecting many of the Jews,
had been foretold both by Hosea and Isaiah, chap. ix, 25-33.
4. That God had offered salvation to Jews and gentiles on the
same terms, though the Jews had rejected it, chap. x, 1-21.
5. That though the rejection of Israel for their obstinacy was
general, yet it was not total; there being still a remnant among
them who did embrace the gospel, chap. xi, 1-10.
6. That the rejection of the rest was not final, but in the end all
Israel should be saved, chap. xi, 11-31.
7. That, meantime, even their obstinacy and rejection served to
display the unsearchable wisdom and love of God, chap. xi, 32-
36. The rest of the epistle contains practical instructions and
exhortations. He particularly urges,
1. An entire consecration of themselves to God, and a care to
glorify Him by a faithful improvement of their several talents,
chap. vii, 1-11.
2. Devotion, patience, hospitality, mutual sympathy, humility,
peace, and meekness, chap. vii, 12-21.
3. Obedience to magistrates, justice in all its branches, love the
fulfilling of the law, and universal holiness, chap. viii, 1-14.
4. Mutual candour between those who differed in judgment,
touching the observance of the Mosaic law, chap. xiv, 1-23, xv, 1-
17; in enforcing which he is led to mention the extent of his own
labours, and his purpose of visiting the Romans; in the mean time
recommending himself to their prayers, chap. xv, 18-33. And,
after many salutations, chap. xvi, 1-16, and a caution against those
who caused divisions, he concludes with a suitable blessing and
doxology, chap. xvi, 17-27.