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And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentations over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women, committed them to prison. Therefore, they that were scattered abroad, went every where preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.

ACTS viii. 2, 3, 4, 5.

THERE is no line of distinction, which more visibly marks the difference between human plans and divine, than this, that while the designs of men are often sudden and disjointed, those of God are ever progressive, connected, and harmonious. The morning light, which,

from its first dawning in the east, shines more and more unto the perfect day, is one proof of the truth of this assertion. The growth of the cedar, the oak, and the cypress, from a small seed committed to the earth, form a second instance; a third may be deduced from the formation of the embryo, and its advancement through all the successive stages of infancy, childhood, and youth, up to maturity. But in the mind, this progressive influence is the more distinctly visible; first, we perceive the faint dawnings of reason, then memory shows itself, afterwards judgment (or the power of discriminating good from evil) is perceptible, and lastly, a conscience. But these principles do not appear perfectly formed, but are ever dilating and improving by exercise, and by cultivation; nor will improvement cease, while life is continued. It is pleasing to trace this progression in the propagation of Christianity. At the period of time we are now to contemplate, many thousands were converted; but we can look back to the time, when our Saviour, walking on the banks of a river, or on the margin of the ocean, called twelve poor fishermen to be his associates; and they alone at that time embraced the gospel; so small was the commencement of that religion, which gradually spread over distant continents, and

which prophecy assures us shall, in process of time, be established through the world.

We are now to enter on the third link of the chain, to the development of which these Lectures are devoted, namely, the persecution and death of Stephen, with the consequent dispersion of the Apostles, and their planting the gospel in Samaria.

I shall divide this portion of apostolic history into three parts.

I. We shall consider the events which led to the public situation and persecution of Stephen.

II. His defence and death.

III. The dispersion of the disciples throughout distant countries, and especially their preaching the gospel in Samaria.

I. We shall consider the events which led to the public situation and persecution of Stephen.

We read in the commencement of the sixth chapter, that," in those days, when the number of the disciples was muitiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration."

Much has been said, and much written,

respecting the nature of this dispute; I will endeavour to explain it in a few words.

While many of the Jews, after the decree of Cyrus, continued in Jerusalem, others formed a settlement in Greece, a country west of Judea. When the community of goods was by mutual consent established, the descendants of these Grecians thought themselves equally entitled to share the benefit with those who remained at Jerusalem; but, from the circumstance of their not being on the spot, their claims were sometimes neglected by those who dispensed the common stock. Then the Apostles summoned the multitude of the disciples, and said, "It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables: wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business." From the expression, "full of the Holy Ghost," we may conclude that they were to be selected from the hundred and twenty, on whom the Spirit had been so miraculously diffused." And the saying pleased the whole multitude; and they chose seven, whom they set before the Apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them."

Permit me here to say a few words respecting the imposition of hands.


I wish, on this head, as far as possible, to remain neutral; neither violently to support the practice, or by any means to stand its opponent. I would not violently espouse it, lest I should hurt the conscience of a weaker brother; neither would I oppose the practice, as I think it cannot (if properly considered) be productive of evil.

The idea that this act was performed with the persuasion, that, by so doing, the Spirit was conferred, can never be supported by any who read, with attention, the preceding verses. These men were already in possession of the gift of the Spirit; and the Apostles, by this action, merely set them apart for the service they had undertaken.

Let us, further, remark the wisdom of the Apostles, in appointing men, thus divinely inspired, to this office. Merely to distribute to the necessities of the poorer members, common justice and integrity would have been sufficient qualification; but disputes had arisen, and, as the best method of settling them, they selected those who had received gifts from above; and they not only acted the part assigned them, but also co-operated with the Apostles in preaching; and we read, that "the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly."

Of these seven, Stephen was pre-eminent;

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