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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.
56. Behold, I see the heavens. God meant not only privately to provide for his servant, but also to wring and torment his enemies; as Stephen doth courageously triumph over them, when he affirmeth plainly that he saw a miracle. And here may a question be moved, how the heavens were opened? For mine own part, I think that there was nothing changed in the nature of the heavens; but that Stephen had new quickness of sight granted him, which pierced through all lets, even unto the invisible glory of the kingdom of heaven. For admit we grant that there was some division or parting 475475 “Scissuram,” rent or opening. made in heaven, yet man’s eye could never reach so far. Again, Stephen alone did see the glory of God. For that spectacle was not only hid from the wicked, who stood in the same place, but they were also so blinded within themselves, that they did not see the manifest truth. 476476 “Apertam veritatis lucem,” the open light of truth. Therefore, he saith that the heavens are opened to him in this respect, because nothing keepeth him from beholding the glory of God. Whereupon it followeth that the miracle was not wrought in heaven, but in his eyes. Wherefore, there is no cause why we should dispute long about any natural vision; because it is certain that Christ appeared unto him not after some natural manner, but after a new and singular sort. And I pray you of what color was the glory of God, that it could be seen naturally with the eyes of the flesh? Therefore, we must imagine nothing in this vision but that which is divine. Moreover, this is worth the noting, that the glory of God appeared not unto Stephen wholly as it was, but according to man’s capacity. For that infiniteness cannot be comprehended with the measure of any creature.
The Son of man standing. He seeth Christ reigning in that flesh wherein he was abased; so that in very deed the victory did consist in this one thing. Therefore, it is not superfluous in that Christ appeareth unto him, and for this cause doth he also call him the Son of man, as if he should say, I see that man whom ye thought ye had quite extinguished by death enjoying the government of heaven; therefore, gnash with your teeth as much as you list: there is no cause why I should fear to fight for him even unto blood, who shall not only defend his own cause, but my salvation also. Notwithstanding, here may a question be moved, why he saw him standing, who is said elsewhere to sit? Augustine, as he is sometimes more subtle than needs, saith, “that he sitteth as a judge, that he stood then as an advocate.” For mine own part, I think that though these speeches be diverse, yet they signify both one thing. For neither sitting, nor yet standing, noteth out how the body of Christ was framed; but this is referred unto his power and kingdom. For where shall we erect him a throne, that he may sit at the right hand of God the Father, seeing God doth fill all things in such sort, that we ought to imagine no place for his right hand?
Therefore, the whole text is a metaphor, when Christ is said to sit or stand at the right hand of God the Father, and the plain meaning is this, that Christ hath all power given him, that he may reign in his Father’s stead in that flesh wherein he was humbled, and that he may be next him. And although this power be spread abroad through heaven and earth, yet some men imagine amiss that Christ in every where in his human nature. For, though he be contained in a certain place, yet that hindereth no whit but that he may and doth show forth his power throughout all the world. Therefore, if we be desirous to feel him present by the working of his grace, we must seek him in heaven; as he revealed himself unto Stephen there. Also, some men do affirm ridiculously out of this place, that he drew near unto Stephen that he might see him. 477477 “Ut videri posset ab eo,” that he might be seen by him. For we have already said, that Stephen’s eyes were so lifted up by the power of the Spirit, 478478 “Per fidem,” through faith, omitted. that no distance of place could hinder the same. I confess, indeed, that speaking properly, that is, philosophically, there is no place above the heavens. But this is sufficient for me, that it is perverse doting to place Christ any where else save only in heaven, and above the elements of the world.