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Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, “ testified to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom,” whom we may appoint over this business.
4. But we will give ourselves contipually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
The money which had been raised for charitable purposes by the - new converts, was at first committed to the disposal of the apostles; but as they had more important work to engage their attention, they were obliged to entrust it to others, who, it seems, had not made an equitable distribution, but suffered themselves to be influenced by national prejudices. To provide for this and other cases, and to free themselves from every interruption in the great business of instruction, they desire the disciples to recommend seven persons, for the office of distributing their charity, who might be respectable for their wisdom, and for a more than ordinary portion of miraculous powers. : 5. And the saying, “the address," pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, Philip and Prochorus and Nicanor and Timon and Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch;
These names are all, or most of them, Greek; but we cannot certainly infer thence that the persons were so. For some of the apostles, who were undoubtedly Ilebrews, had Greek names. One of the deacons,
Stephen, was certainly a Hebrew, as appears from his speech in the next chapter, and so were probably the rest, except Nicolas, who is expressly called a proselyte. But this circumstance tends to confirm the opinion which has just been given, that the persons who complained upon the present occasion were all proselytes to the Jewish religion. Hence appears the propriety of chusing a proselyte, to superintend the concerns of those who were in the same situation with himself, and with whom he could not fail to have a fellow-feeling
6. Whom they set before the apostles, and, when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
The action of laying on of hands probably accompanied the prayers of the apostles, and did not follow them, as the words may seem to imply, and was intended to mark out the persons who were the objects of their prayers, and to render them more impressive.
7. And the word of God increased,
thrived," and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
That many priests, the inveterate enemies and persecutors of Jesus, should profess their faith in him, and hereby expose themselves to the peculiar hatred of their brethren, and especially that a large company, or, as the words properly signify, a great multitude, should do so, is highly improbable. So remarkable a fact would have been noticed again ; but this is the only instance in which it is mentioned. One ancient version, the Syriac*, instead of priests, has Jews in
• To the authority of the Syriac may be now added that of five manuscripts, not, however, of high antiquity, and the quotation of Thcophylact. See Griesbach, 2nd edition, Editor.
this place; and I am inclined to think that this must have been the original reading. According to this supposition, Luke, after saying that the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, adds, that a great multitude of other Jews, that is, of the inhabitants of the neighbouring country, became obedient to the faith ; a thing highly probable in itself, and what it was very natural that he should mention.
8. And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.
This verse serves to explain what is said of him in verse the fifth, that he was full of the Holy Spirit. By this, it appears, no more was intended than that he was possessed of supernatural powers, and brought
9. Then there arose certain of the synagogue which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians and Alexandrians and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.
It has been generally supposed that the Libertines were Jews, who, having been slaves to Roman masters, had received their liberty, and took their name from that circumstance. But as there was a city or district in Africa called Libertina*, it is most probable that the Libertines were thus denominated from that name; the more especially, as the Cyrenians and Alexandrians, mentioned in connection with them, were inhabitants of that quarter of the globe. As the Jews who resided in foreign countries had frequent occasion to resort to Jerusalem, to bring offerings to the temple, and for other purposes, they found it convenient to
have synagogues of their own, in which the law might be read to them in a language which was familiar to them, namely the Greek.
These were the persons whom Stephen met, and with whom he disputed on the present occasion.
10. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit, i. e. the wise spirit, with which he spake.
11. Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.
12. And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council ;
13. And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law :
14. For we have heard him say, That this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
They had probably heard Stephen recount some of the prophecies of Jesus, respecting the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, in which case some of the customs of the place must undoubtedly cease; such as the rites of sacrifice, and other things.
15. And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face, as it had been the face of an angel.
To see his face like the face of an angel, is only a Jewish form of speech, to express the gracefulness or majesty, or both, which appeared in the countenance of Stephen, when about to speak, and when illuininated with the sentiments that he was going to deliver, which we have in the next chapter.
1. The conduct of the apostles, 'in preferring one employment to another, may afford a rule for directing others who may be in like circumstances.
When two employments interfere, they chuse to follow that in which they are likely to be the more useful. They decline the office of distributing the charities of the first converts, although a post of great honour and influence, because it interrupted them too much in tlie great work of preaching the Christian doctrine; hereby showing that to provide for the wants of the mind was, in their estimation, á more important service than providing for those of the body, and that instructing men in the means of attaining a virtuous life now, and an eternal well being hereafter, is of more utility than furnishing them with temporal accommodations. For the one office they are peculiarly well qualified, by being the companions of their master from the beginning, and by the extraordinary powers with which they are endowed. For the other, men of inferior endowments might be found among the disciples, equally well qualified with themselves,