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52Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers.

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52. Which of the prophets? Forasmuch as they ought not to bear their fathers’ fault, Stephen seemeth to deal unjustly, in that he reckoneth this amongst their faults unto whom he speaketh; but he had just causes so to do. First, because they did vaunt that they were Abraham’s holy progeny, it was worth the labor to show unto them how great vanity that was, as if Stephen should say, that there is no cause why they should vaunt of their stock, forasmuch as they come of those who were wicked murderers of the prophets. So that he toucheth that glancingly which is more plainly set down by the prophets, that they are not the children of prophets, but a degenerate and bastardly issue, the seed of Canaan, etc. Which thing we may at this day object to the Papists, when as they so highly extol their fathers. Furthermore, this serveth to amplify withal, whereas he saith that it is no new thing for them to resist the truth, but that they have this wickedness, as it were, by inheritance from their fathers. Furthermore, it was requisite for Stephen by this means to pluck from their faces the visor of the Church, wherewith they burdened him. 467467     “Gravabant,” burdened, brought a charge against him, or threw obloquy on him. This was an unmeet prejudice against the doctrine of the gospel, in that they boasted that they are the Church of God, and did challenge this title 468468     “Hunc qui titulum sibi... arrogabant,” and arrogated this title to themselves. by long succession. Therefore, Stephen preventeth them on the contrary, and proveth that their fathers did, no less than they, rage against the prophets, through wicked contempt and hatred of sound doctrine. Lastly, this is the continual custom of the Scripture to gather the fathers and children together 469469     “Aggregare,” to sum up, include. under the same guiltiness, seeing they pollute themselves with the same offenses, and that famous sentence of Christ answereth thereto, “Fulfill the measure of your fathers, until the just blood come upon you, from Abel unto Zacharias.”

Who have foretold. Hereby we gather that this was the drift of all the prophets, to direct their nation unto Christ, as he is the end of the law, (Romans 10:4.) It were too long to gather all the prophecies wherein the coming of Christ was foretold. Let it suffice to know this generally, that it was the common office of all the prophets to promise salvation by the grace of Christ. Christ is called in this place the Just, not only to note his innocency, but of the effect, because it is proper to him to appoint justice in the world. And even in this place doth Stephen prove that the Jews were altogether unworthy of the benefit of redemption, because the fathers did not only refuse that in times past, which was witnessed unto them by the prophets, but they did also cruelly murder the messengers of grace, and their children endeavored to extinguish the author of righteousness and salvation which was offered unto them. By which comparison Christ teacheth that the wicked conspiracy of his enemies was an heap of all iniquities.