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the minds of the people, but continued to ferment there, until, as we learn from the same writer, they produced the insurrection which terminated in the destruction of the city and temple. It is generally allowed that the taxing or enrolment mentioned in this passage is not the same which is noticed in the second chapter of Luke's gospel, as it now stands: the circumstance, however, of its not being distinguished from a prior one by being called the second taxing or enrolment, affords a strong presumption against the existence of any other, and is a fresh objection to that part of the history, in addition to the many others to which it is liable. From Gamaliel's language we should suppose that he knew but of one enrolment; and probably there was no other. 38. And now I
Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nothing;
Something will arise to defeat this scheme, as in the two preceding instances, although at one time they promised fair for success.
39. But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it : . The next words are to be connected with the advice which he had given in the preceding verse; Refrain from these men and let them alone,
Lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
This is the reason on which his advice is founded. Gamaliel probably thought that the Roman governors would become jealous of the followers of Jesus, as they had of those impostors, and that by their means the Christian doctrine would be suppressed, without the interference of the Jewish rulers.
40. And to him they agreed ; and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, either with rods or by scourging, they commanded that they should not speak concerning the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name,
They rejoiced to find that they had discovered so much attachment to the cause of Christ, which, they believed, deserved all the zeal which they could manifest, as to attract the notice of his adversaries, and incur punishment from them. From the punishment being called suffering shame, it is probable that it was of a light nature, and intended rather for the purpose of degrading than that of inflicting bodily pain.
42. And daily in the temple, and in every house, rather, at home," they ceased not to teach and preach that Jesus is the Christ; for so the words ought to be rendered,
1. The arguments employed by Gamaliel to dissuade Jews from persecution, are well worthy of the serious consideration of Christians. If the opinions
which you seek to suppress by force are false, they will fall to the ground of themselves, and violence is unnecessary and improper; for it will delay not hasten their fall. If they should be true, your attempt is at the same time fruitless and impious. The contest is always unequal between truth and error: if both should be defended with equal skill and żeal, it is easy to decide which will have the victory. The progress of reason is slow, but certain, and mankind cannot fail to be, enlightened, if unremitted pains be taken
Let no one, therefore, stain his hands with persecution in opposing error, when his wishes inay be so easily accomplished in another way. But your conduct, in having recourse to persecution, deserves to be stigmatized with a harsher name than that of folly. For it is possible that the opinions of those whom you oppose may be right, and your own erroneous; and then, outrage and violence are employed against the friends and benefactors of the human race, against the worthiest men, and the servants of God; against those whom you cannot oppose successfully, or over whom, if you could, it would be no honour to triumph. This implies no small degree of guilt.
for the purpose.
Happy would it have been for the Jews, happy would it have been for Christians, if they had always been attentive to the maxims of this wise teacher! How much innocent blood would have been spared! How much human misery prevented! But, alas, it seems as if the bulk of mankind had yet to learn, what history and observation have always taught the enlightened, the folly and wickedness of persecution.
2. Let those who suffer for Christ, or for the cause of Christ, derive consolation to themselves from the same source as the apostles. Be assured that your zeal is of no ordinary kind: it has already engaged the attention and awakened the fears of your opponents; and they think that the cause which you espouse can suffer no greater loss than by the want of your exertions; bearing hereby an unwilling testimony to their value. If you had any doubts of the sincerity and
warmth of your attachment to the interests of religion before, those doubts must now be removed ; for they are acknowledged by the conduct of its enemies. Rejoice, then, in the honourable distinction which
you have attained: you will henceforth be classed among the zealous followers of Jesus, among the apostles and martyrs of Christ, whose names are handed down with reverence from one generation to another. Blessed are you; for you are persecuted for righteousness sake, and yours is the kingdom of heaven; rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven.
3. The indefatigable industry of the apostles in the cause in which they were engaged, notwithstanding so much opposition, deserves our admiration and our praise. They are willing to preach, wherever men are disposed to hear, and the truth is likely to be communicated, in public or private, in their own houses or in the temple. To them, while engaged in this important work, every day is a sabbath, every house a chapel
, and every spot of ground consecrated. Let the professed ministers of the gospel, in this respect, imitate their example. Let them manifest the like unremitted industry, in correcting the errors and in reforining the morals of mankind. If they - should experience opposition from the patrons of error and vice, let it only serve to quicken their exertions, in as much as this alarm is a proof that their past labours have been in some degree successful; in as much as the present opposition may only be a prelude to much severer measures, which may deprive them of further opportunities of doing good. While God is therefore pleased to give them leisure, let them not fail to employ it, in the best manner, for this purpose.
This chapter contains an account of a complaint of neglect made by some of the Greek proselytes, and of the prudent method which the apostles adopted to remove the grounds of it, by proposing the appointment of seven deacons; of the disputes which one of them, Stephen, had with several parties of unbelievers, and of the base plot which they formed against his life, when they were not able to answer his arguments.
1. And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
These Grecians, who complained of neglect, were probably, proselytes to the Jewish religion * from among the Greeks, or the descendents of such persons, who had now embraced Christianity. They were become Jews by conforming to all the ceremonies of the Mosaic law; but they were not allowed the same civil privileges as the native Israelites, who, by way of distinction, were called Hebrews; nor were they by any means held in the same estimation. A proof of this they experienced on the present occasion, even after their conversion to Christianity, by having their widows overlooked in the daily provision that was made for those of the Hebrews from the public fund. Of this partiality they complained, as they well might; and the apostles were disposed to grant them redress.
2. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason, It is not reasonable, that we should leave the word of God and serve tables, i. e. employ ourselves to furnish provisions. • Lardner, (Remarks on Dr. Ward's Diss. Vol. xi. p. 292) sus
pects that the original reading was ελληνων. .