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8. Church Persecuted and Scattered
1And Saul was consenting unto his death. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2And devout men buried Stephen, and made great lamentation over him. 3But Saul laid waste the church, entering into every house, and dragging men and women committed them to prison. 4They therefore that were scattered abroad, went about preaching the word. 5And Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed unto them the Christ. 6And the multitudes gave heed with one accord unto the things that were spoken by Philip, when they heard, and saw the signs which he did. 7For from many of those that had unclean spirits, they came out, crying with a loud voice: and many that were palsied, and that were lame, were healed. 8And there was much joy in that city. 9But there was a certain man, Simon by name, who beforetime in the city used sorcery, and amazed the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is that power of God which is called Great. 11And they gave heed to him, because that of long time he had amazed them with his sorceries. 12But when they believed Philip preaching good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13And Simon also himself believed: and being baptized, he continued with Philip; and beholding signs and great miracles wrought, he was amazed. 14Now when the apostles that were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit: 16for as yet it was fallen upon none of them: only they had been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 18Now when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay my hands, he may receive the Holy Spirit. 20But Peter said unto him, Thy silver perish with thee, because thou hast thought to obtain the gift of God with money. 21Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right before God. 22Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray the Lord, if perhaps the thought of thy heart shall be forgiven thee. 23For I see that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. 24And Simon answered and said, Pray ye for me to the Lord, that none of the things which ye have spoken come upon me. 25They therefore, when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. 26But an angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza: the same is desert. 27And he arose and went: and behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasure, who had come to Jerusalem to worship; 28and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29And the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30And Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31And he said, How can I, except some one shall guide me? And he besought Philip to come up and sit with him. 32Now the passage of the Scripture which he was reading was this,
He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;
And as a lamb before his shearer is dumb,
So he openeth not his mouth:
33In his humiliation his judgment was taken away:
His generation who shall declare?
For his life is taken from the earth.
34And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other? 35And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture, preached unto him Jesus. 36And as they went on the way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch saith, Behold, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 38And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, for he went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached the gospel to all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
14. Luke describeth, in this place, the proceedings of the grace of God in the Samaritans, as he useth to enrich the faithful continually with greater gifts of his Spirit, for we must not think that the apostles took that counsel whereof Luke speaketh, without the instinct of the same God who had already begun his work in Samaria by the hand of Philip; and he useth his instruments diversely unto divers parts of his work, according to his good pleasure. He used Philip as an instrument to bring them unto the faith; now he ordaineth Peter and John to be ministers to give the Spirit and thus doth he foster the unity of his Church when one helpeth another, and not only knit man and man together, but whole churches also. He could have finished that which he had begun by Philip; but to the end the Samaritans might learn to embrace brotherly fellowship with the first Church, he meant to bind them herewith as with a band; secondly, he meant to grant the apostles (whom he had commanded to preach the gospel throughout the whole world — Mark 16:15) this privilege, that they might the better all grow together into one faith of the gospel; and we know that it was otherwise dangerous, lest, seeing the Jews and Samaritans were much unlike in mind and manners, being so divided, they should by this means divide Christ, or at least feign to themselves a new Church.
In the mean season, we see how careful the apostles were to help their brethren; for they stay not until they be requested, but they take this charge upon them of their own accord. The apostles do not this through any distrust, as if they did suspect that Philip did not his duty so uprightly as he ought; 512512 “Minus dextre quam par esset,” less dexterously than was meet. but they set to their hand to help him in his work, and Peter and John came not only to help him, and to be partakers of his labors, but also to approve the same. Again, Philip is not grieved because other men finish that building which he had begun, but they one help another full gently and faithfully; and surely it is ambition alone which will not suffer holy fellowship and mutual imparting of duties to enter. 513513 “Quae sanctae communicatione januam claudit,” which shuts the door against holy communion. Whereas Luke saith that Peter was sent by the rest, we may hereby gather that he was not the chief ruler over his fellows in office; 514514 “Non exercuisse in collegas imperium,” did not exercise authority over his colleagues. but did so excel amongst them, that yet, notwithstanding, he was subject to, and did obey the body.
Which were at Jerusalem. This may carry a double meaning, either that all the apostles were at Jerusalem then, or that there were certain resident there when the rest went hither and thither; and I do rather allow this latter, for it is to be thought that they did so divide themselves, that always some of the number might take upon them divers embassages, as occasion was offered, that some might stay at Jerusalem, as in the principal standing. 515515 “Statione,” station. Again, it may be that after every man had spent some time in his voyage, they were wont to assemble themselves there. It is certain, indeed, that that time which they spent at Jerusalem was not spent in idleness; and, secondly that they were not tied to some one place, forasmuch as Christ had commanded them to go over all the world (Mark 16:15.)