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7. Stephen's Speech to Sanhedrin

1And the high priest said, Are these things so? 2And he said, Brethren and fathers, hearken: The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3and said unto him, Get thee out of thy land, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee. 4Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Haran: and from thence, when his father was dead, God removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell: 5and he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: and he promised that he would give it to him in possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child. 6And God spake on this wise, that his seed should sojourn in a strange land, and that they should bring them into bondage, and treat them ill, four hundred years. 7And the nation to which they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place. 8And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob the twelve patriarchs. 9And the patriarchs, moved with jealousy against Joseph, sold him into Egypt: and God was with him, 10and delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. 11Now there came a famine over all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance. 12But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent forth our fathers the first time. 13And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's race became manifest unto Pharaoh. 14And Joseph sent, and called to him Jacob his father, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls. 15And Jacob went down into Egypt; and he died, himself and our fathers; 16and they were carried over unto Shechem, and laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for a price in silver of the sons of Hamor in Shechem. 17But as the time of the promise drew nigh which God vouchsafed unto Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, 18till there arose another king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph. 19The same dealt craftily with our race, and ill-treated our fathers, that they should cast out their babes to the end they might not live. 20At which season Moses was born, and was exceeding fair; and he was nourished three months in his father's house. 21and when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son. 22And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; and he was mighty in his words and works. 23But when he was well-nigh forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. 24And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, smiting the Egyptian: 25and he supposed that his brethren understood that God by his hand was giving them deliverance; but they understood not. 26And the day following he appeared unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another? 27But he that did his neighbor wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? 28Wouldest thou kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian yesterday? 29And Moses fled at this saying, and became a sojourner in the land of Midian, where he begat two sons. 30And when forty years were fulfilled, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31And when Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold, there came a voice of the Lord, 32I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob. And Moses trembled, and durst not behold. 33And the Lord said unto him, Loose the shoes from thy feet: for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. 34I have surely seen the affliction of my people that is in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I am come down to deliver them: and now come, I will send thee into Egypt. 35This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? him hath God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer with the hand of the angel that appeared to him in the bush. 36This man led them forth, having wrought wonders and signs in Egypt, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years. 37This is that Moses, who said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like unto me. 38This is he that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel that spake to him in the Mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received living oracles to give unto us: 39to whom our fathers would not be obedient, but thrust him from them, and turned back in their hearts unto Egypt, 40saying unto Aaron, Make us gods that shall go before us: for as for this Moses, who led us forth out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him. 41And they made a calf in those days, and brought a sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their hands. 42But God turned, and gave them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets,

Did ye offer unto me slain beasts and sacrifices

Forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?

43And ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch,

And the star of the god Rephan,

The figures which ye made to worship them:

And I will carry you away beyond Babylon.

44Our fathers had the tabernacle of the testimony in the wilderness, even as he appointed who spake unto Moses, that he should make it according to the figure that he had seen. 45Which also our fathers, in their turn, brought in with Joshua when they entered on the possession of the nations, that God thrust out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David; 46who found favor in the sight of God, and asked to find a habitation for the God of Jacob. 47But Solomon built him a house. 48Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in houses made with hands; as saith the prophet,

49The heaven is my throne,

And the earth the footstool of my feet:

What manner of house will ye build me? saith the Lord:

Or what is the place of my rest?

50Did not my hand make all these things?

51Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye. 52Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? and they killed them that showed before of the coming of the Righteous One; of whom ye have now become betrayers and murderers; 53ye who received the law as it was ordained by angels, and kept it not. 54Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. 57But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed upon him with one accord; 58and they cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59And they stoned Stephen, calling upon the Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

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22. Whereas Luke reporteth that he was taught in all wisdom of the Egyptians, he putteth that in his commendation as a point of excellency. Notwithstanding, it might have so fallen out, as it doth oftentimes, that being puffed up with profane sciences, he might have despised the base common people; yet because God had determined to redeem his people, he doth, in the mean season, frame both the mind of Moses and all other things to finish his work. The reason of man’s flesh 408408     “Carnis ratio,” carnal reason. should murmur in this place, Why doth God wink at so long miseries of the people? Why doth he suffer Pharaoh to rage more cruelly daily? Why doth he not suffer Moses to grow up amongst his own people? Why doth he after a sort cut him off from the kindred of Israel, being adopted by the king’s daughter? Why will he suffer him to remain amidst courtly pleasures, 409409     “Ad annum quadragesimum,” till his fortieth year. and doth not rather pull him thence? But the end itself is so wonderful, that we are enforced to confess that all these things were governed by singular counsel and order to set forth the glory of God.

Whereas I said that Luke speaketh in this place of the learning of the Egyptians for honor’s sake, I would not have it so taken as if there were in the same no corruption. Forasmuch as astrology 410410     “Astrologia,” astrology, or, more properly here, astronomy. doth consider the wonderful workmanship of God, not only in the placing of the stars, and in such excellent variety, but also in their moving, force, and secret offices, it is a science both profitable and worthy of praise. The Egyptians bestowed great study in this, but being not content with the simple order of nature, they wandered also into many foolish speculations, as did the Chaldeans. It is uncertain whether Moses was infected with these superstitions or no. Yet, howsoever it be, we see how sincerely and plainly he setteth that before us to be considered in the frame of the world, which is appertinent unto godliness. Surely this was excellent modesty, in that he which could reason with learned and witty men of the secrets of nature, doth not only omit higher subtleties, but doth also descend unto the common capacity of every most simple man, and doth, in a common style, set forth unto men unlearned those things which they perceive by experience. When Justinian [Justin] babbleth concerning Moses, he maketh him a magician, which, with juggling and enchantments, made passage for the people through the Red Sea; so that Satan did not only go about to bury the power of God, but also to blaspheme the same. But we know that Moses did not strive with the enchanters by magic, but did that only which God had enjoined him.

Furthermore, the Egyptians had mystical divinity, wherewith they colored their doting inventions and monstrous abominations, as if they would prove that they went mad not without reason: as the Papists, whereas they delude and mock men like stage-players, in their mass and other foolish rites, yet they invent mysteries, that they may persuade men that there is nothing there but that which is divine. The common sort of priests cannot climb so high, but those which amongst them will be accounted more cunning 411411     “Perspicaces,” clear-sighted. do omit no rite, how foolish and childish soever it be, affirming that there is some spiritual mystery in every [one] of them. There is extant concerning this matter a most foolish mingle-mangle, which they call the Rationall [Rationale] of Divine Offices. But forasmuch as sacrificing priests alone did use such dotings amongst themselves, it is not to be thought that Moses spent any time in these, whose bringing up was princely, but that he was taught in liberal arts.

He was mighty. This phrase doth express among the Hebrews a double excellency, when as he which doth excel in wit and learning, is also apt to attempt and bring to pass great and weighty matters. 412412     “Ad res praeclaras gerendas aptus est,” is fitted for greater exploits. Stephen’s meaning is, therefore, that Moses was furnished with rare gifts, so that they did all confess that he was a singular man. But seeing he was in such estimation, the Israelites had the less hope that he should be the minister which should work their deliverance.