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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 15

Verse 15. Were come down. To Samaria. Jerusalem was generally represented as up, or higher than the rest of the land, Mt 20:18; Joh 7:8.

Prayed for them. They sought at the hand of God the extraordinary communications of the Holy Spirit. They did not even pretend to have the power of doing it without the aid of God.

That they might receive the Holy Ghost. The main question here is, what was meant by the Holy Ghost? In Ac 8:20, it is called "the gift of God." The following remarks may make this plain:

(1.) It was not that gift of the Holy Ghost by which the soul is converted, or renewed, for they had this when they believed, Ac 8:6. Everywhere the conversion of the sinner is traced to his influence. Comp. Joh 1:13.

(2.) It was not the ordinary influences of the Spirit by which the soul is sanctified; for sanctification is a progressive work, and this was sudden: sanctification is shown by the general tenor of the life; this was sudden and striking.

(3.) It was something that was discernible by external effects; for Simon saw Ac 8:18 that this was done by the laying on of hands.

(4.) The phrase, "the gift of the Holy Ghost," and "the descent of the Holy Ghost," signified not merely his ordinary influences in converting sinners, but those extraordinary influences that attended the first preaching of the gospel—the power of speaking with new tongues, Ac 2, the power of working miracles, etc., Ac 19:6.

(5.) This is further clear from the fact that Simon wished to purchase this power, evidently to keep up his influence among the people, and to retain his ascendancy as a juggler and sorcerer. But surely Simon would not wish to purchase the converting and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit; it was the power of working miracles. These things make it clear that by the gift of the Holy Spirit here is meant the power of speaking with new tongues, (comp. 1 Co 14,) and the power of miracles. And it is further clear that this passage should not be adduced in favour of "the rite of confirmation" in the Christian church. For, besides the fact that there are now no apostles, the thing spoken of here is entirely different from that of the rite of confirmation. This was to confer the extraordinary power of working miracles; that is for a different purpose.

If it be asked why this power was conferred on the early Christians, it may be replied, that it was to furnish striking proof of the truth of the Christian religion; to impress the people, and thus to win them to embrace the gospel. The early church was thus armed with the power of the Holy Spirit; and this extraordinary attestation of God to his message was one cause of the rapid propagation and permanent establishment of the gospel.

{§} "Holy Ghost" "Holy Spirit"

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