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Barnes' Notes on the New Testament

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Verse 1. And Saul was consenting, etc. Was pleased with his being put to death, and approved it. Comp. Acts 22:20. This part of the verse should have been connected with the previous chapter.

At that time. That is, immediately following the death of Stephen. The persecution arose on account of Stephen, Acts 11:19. The tumult did not subside when Stephen was killed. Their anger continued to be excited against all Christians. They had become so embittered by the zeal and success of the apostles, and by their frequent charges of murder in putting the Son of God to death, that they resolved at once to put a period to their progress and success. This was the first persecution against Christians; the first in a series that terminated only when the religion which they wished to destroy was fully established on the ruins of both Judaism and Paganism.

The Church. The collection of Christians which were now organized into a church. The church at Jerusalem was the first that was collected.

All scattered. That is, the great mass of Christians.

The regions of Judea, etc. See Barnes "Matthew 2:22".

Except the apostles. Probably, the other Christians fled from fear. Why the apostles, who were particularly in danger, did not flee also, is not stated by the historian. Having been, however, more fully instructed than the others, and having been taught their duty by the example and teaching of the Saviour, they resolved, it seems, to remain and brave the fury of the persecutors. For them to have fled then would have exposed them, as leaders and founders of the new religion, to the charge of timidity and weakness. They therefore resolved to remain in the midst of their persecutors; and a merciful Providence watched over them, and defended them from harm. The dispersion extended not only to Judea and Samaria, but those who fled carried the gospel also to Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, Acts 11:19. There was a reason why this was permitted. The early converts were Jews. They had strong feelings of attachment to the city of Jerusalem, to the temple, and to the land of their fathers. Yet it was the design of the Lord Jesus that the gospel should be preached everywhere. To accomplish this, he suffered a persecution to rage; and they were scattered abroad, and bore his gospel to other cities and lands. Good thus came out of evil; and the first persecution resulted, as all others have done, in advancing the cause which was intended to be destroyed.

{c} "Saul was consenting" Acts 7:58
{d} "scattered abroad" Acts 11:19

Verse 2. And devout men. Religious men. The word used here does not imply of necessity that they were Christians. There might have been Jews who did not approve the popular tumult, and the murder of Stephen, and who gave him a decent burial. Joseph of Arimathaea, and Nicodemus, both Jews, thus gave to the Lord Jesus a decent burial, John 19:38,39.

Carried Stephen. The word translated carried means, properly, to collect, as fruits, etc. Then it is applied to all the preparations necessary for fitting a dead body for burial--as collecting, or confining it by bandages, with spices, etc.

And made great lamentation. This was usual among the Jews at a funeral. See Barnes "Matthew 9:23".

Verse 3. As for Saul. But Saul. He had no concern in the pious attentions shown to Stephen, but engaged with zeal in the work of persecution.

He made havoc. \~elumaineto\~. This word is commonly applied to wild beasts, to lions, wolves, etc., and denotes the devastations which they commit. Saul raged against the church like a wild beast--a strong expression, denoting the zeal and fury with which he engaged in persecution.

Entering into every house. To search for those who were suspected of being Christians.

Haling. Dragging, or compelling them.

Committed them to prison. The sanhedrim had not power to put them to death, John 18:31, but they had power to imprison; and they resolved, it seems, to exercise this power to the utmost. Paul frequently refers to his zeal in persecuting the church, Acts 26:10,11; Galatians 1:13. It may be remarked here, that there never was a persecution commenced with more flattering prospects to the persecutors. Saul, the principal agent, was young, zealous, learned, and clothed with power. He showed afterwards that he had talents fitted for any station; and zeal that tired with no exertion, and that was appalled by no obstacle. With this talent he entered on his work. Christians were few and feeble. They were scattered and unarmed. They were unprotected by any civil power, and exposed, therefore, to the full blaze and rage of persecution. That the church was not destroyed, was owing to the protection of God--a protection that not only secured its existence, but which extended its influence and power, by means of this very persecution, far abroad on the earth.

{a} "he made havoc" Acts 26:10,11; Galatians 1:13
{*} "haling" "Dragging forth"

Verse 4. Went every where. That is, they travelled through the various regions where they were scattered. In all places to which they came, they preached the word.

Preaching the word. Greek, Evangelizing, or announcing the good news of the message of mercy, or the word of God. It is not the usual word which is rendered preach, but means simply announcing the good news of salvation. There is no evidence, nor is there any probability, that all these persons were ordained to preach. They were manifestly common Christians who were scattered by the persecution; and the meaning is, that they communicated to their fellow-men in conversation, wherever they met them--and probably in the synagogues, where all Jews had a right to speak--the glad tidings that the Messiah had come. It is not said that they set themselves up for public teachers; or that they administered baptism; or that they founded churches; but they proclaimed everywhere the news that a Saviour had come. Their hearts were full of it. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks; and they made the truth known to all whom they met. We may learn from this,

(1.) that persecution tends to promote the very thing which it would destroy.

(2.) That one of the best means to make Christians active and zealous is to persecute them.

(3.) That it is right for all Christians to make known the Paths of the gospel. When the heart is full, the lips will speak; and there is no more impropriety in their speaking of redemption than of anything else.

(4.) It should be the great object of all Christians to make the Saviour known everywhere. By their lives, conversation, and pious exhortations and entreaties, they should beseech dying sinners to be reconciled to God. And especially should this be done when they are travelling. Christians, when away from home, seem almost to imagine that they lay aside the obligations of religion. But the example of Christ and his early disciples has taught us that this is the very time to attempt to do good.

Verse 5. Then Philip. One of the seven deacons, Acts 6:5. He is afterwards called the Evangelist, Acts 21:8.

The city of Samaria. This does not mean a city whose name was Samaria, for no such city at that time existed. Samaria was a region, Matthew 2:22. The ancient city Samaria, the capital of that region, had been destroyed by Hyrcanus so completely, as to leave no vestige of it remaining; and he "took away," says Justifies, "the very marks that there had ever been such a city there, Anti. b. xlii. chap. x. 3. Herod the Great afterwards built a city on this site, and called it Sebaste, i. e. Augusta, in honour of the emperor Augustus, Jos. Anti. b. xv. chap. viii. 5. Perhaps this city is intended, as being the principal city of Samaria; or possibly Sychar, another city where the gospel had been before preached by the Saviour himself, John 4.

And preached Christ. Preached that the Messiah had come, and made known his doctrines. The same truths had been before stated in Samaria by the Saviour himself, John 4 and this was doubtless one of the reasons why they so gladly now received the word of God. The field had been prepared by the Lord Jesus; and he had said that it was white for the harvest, John 4:35 and into that field Philip now entered, and was signally blessed. His coming was attended with a remarkable revival of religion. The word translated preach here is not that which is used in the previous verse. This denotes to proclaim as a crier, and is commonly employed to denote the preaching of the gospel, so called, Mark 5:20; 7:36; Luke 8:39; Matthew 24:14; Acts 10:42; Romans 10:15; 1 Corinthians 9:27; 15:12; 2 Timothy 4:2. It has been argued that because Philip is said thus to have preached to the Samaritans, that therefore all deacons have a right to preach, or that they are, under the New Testament economy, an order of ministers. But this is by no means clear. For,

(1.) it is not evident, nor can it be shown, that the other deacons Acts 6 ever preached. There is no record of their doing so; and the narrative would lead us to suppose that they did not.

(2.) They were appointed for a very different purpose, Acts 6:1-5; and it is fair to suppose that, as deacons, they confined themselves to the design of their appointment.

(3.) It is not said that Philip preached, in virtue of his being a deacon. From anything in this place, it would seem that he preached as the other Christians did--wherever he was.

(4.) But elsewhere an express distinction is made between Philip and the others. A new appellation is given him, and he is expressly called the Evangelist, Acts 21:8. From this, it seems that he preached, not because he was a deacon, but because he had received a special appointment to this business as an evangelist.

(5.) This same office, or rank of Christian teachers, is expressly recognized elsewhere, Ephesians 4:11. All these considerations show that there is not, in the sacred Scriptures, an order of ministers appointed to preach as deacons.

{b} "Philip went down" Acts 6:5

Verse 6. With one accord. Unitedly, or with one mind. Great multitudes of them did it.

Gave heed. Paid attention to; embraced.

Hearing. Hearing what he said.

{+} "accord" "Consent"
{d} "hearing and seeing" John 4:41,42

Verse 7. For unclean spirits. See Barnes "Matthew 4:24".

Crying with loud voice. See Barnes "Mark 1:26".

Palsies. See Barnes "Matthew 4:24".

{e} "unclean spirits" Mark 16:17
{f} "palsies" Mark 2:3-11; Acts 9:33,34
{g} "lame" Matthew 11:5

Verse 8. And there was great joy. This joy arose,

(1.) from the fact that so many persons, before sick and afflicted, were restored to health.

(2.) From the conversion on individuals to Christ. The tendency of religion is to produce joy.

(3.) From the mutual joy of families and friends that their friends were converted. The tendency of a revival of religion is thus to produce great joy.

Verse 9. But there was a certain man, called Simon. The Fathers have written much respecting this man, and have given strange accounts of him; but nothing more is certainly known of him than is stated in this place. Rosenmuller and Canaille suppose him to have been a Simon mentioned by Justifies, (Anti. b. xx. chap. vii.  2,) who was born in Cyprus. He was a magician, and was employed by Felix to persuade Drusilla to forsake her husband Azizus, and to marry Felix. But it is not very probable that this was the same person. See Note in Whiston's Justifies. Simon Magus was probably a Jew or a Samaritan, who had addicted himself to the arts of magic, and who was much celebrated for it. He had studied philosophy in Alexandria in Egypt, (Mosheim, i. p. 113, 114, Murdock's translation,) and then lived at Samaria. After he was cut off from the hope of adding to his other powers the power of working miracles, the Fathers say that he fell into many errors, and became the founder of the sect of the Simonians. They accused him of affirming that he came down as the Father in respect to the Samaritans; the Son in respect to the Jews; and the Holy Spirit in respect to the Gentiles, He did not acknowledge Christ to be the Son of God, but a rival, and pretended himself to be Christ. He rejected the law of Moses. Many other things are affirmed of him, which rest on doubtful authority. He seems to have become an enemy to Christianity; though he was willing then to avail himself of some of its doctrines in order to advance his own interests. The account that he came to a tragical death at Rome; that he was honoured as a deity by the Roman senate; and that a statue was erected to his memory in the isle of Tiber, is now generally rejected. His end is not known. See Calmed, art. Simon Magus, and Mosheim, i. p. 114, Note.

Beforetime. The practice of magic, or sorcery, was common at that time, and in all the ancient nations.

Used sorcery. \~mageuwn\~. Exercising the arts of the Magi, or Magicians; hence the name Simon Magus. See Barnes "Matthew 2:1". The ancient Magi had their rise in Persia, and were at first addicted to the study of philosophy, astronomy, medicine, etc. This name came afterwards to signify those who made use of the knowledge of these arts for the purpose of imposing on mankind--astrologers, soothsayers, necromancers, fortune-tellers, etc. Such persons pretended to predict future events by the positions of the stars, and to cure diseases by incantations, etc. See Isaiah 2:6; see also Daniel 1:20; 2:2. It was expressly forbidden the Jews to consult such persons on pain of death, Leviticus 19:31; 20:6. In these arts Simon had been eminently successful.

And bewitched. This is an unhappy translation. The Greek means merely that he astonished or amazed the people, or confounded their judgment. The idea of bewitching them is not in the original.

Giving out, etc. Saying, i.e. boasting. It was in this way, partly, that he so confounded them. Jugglers generally impose on people just in proportion to the extravagance and folly of their pretensions. The same remark may be made of quack doctors, and of all persons who attempt to delude and impose on mankind.

{*} "sorcery" "magic"
{a} "and bewitched" Acts 13:6; Revelation 22:15
{+} "bewitched" "astonished"
{b} "giving out" Acts 5:36

Verse 12. No notes from Barnes on this verse.

{e} "believed Philip" Acts 8:37; 2:41
{f} "things concerning" Acts 1:3

Verse 13. Then Simon himself believed also. That is, he believed that Jesus had wrought miracles, and was raised from the dead, etc. All this he could believe in entire consistency with his own notions of the power of magic: and all that the connexion requires us to suppose is that he believed this--that Jesus had power of working miracles, etc.; and as he purposed to turn this to his own account, he was willing to profess himself to be his follower. It might have injured his popularity, moreover, if he had taken a stand when so many were professing to become Christians. Men often profess religion because, if they do not, they fear they will lose their influence, and be left with the ungodly. That Simon was not a real Christian is apparent from the whole narrative, Acts 8:18,21-23.

And when he was baptized. He was admitted to a profession of religion in the same way as the others. Philip did not pretend to know the heart; and Simon was admitted because he professed his belief. This is all the evidence that ministers can have; and it is no wonder that they, as well as Philip, are often deceived. The reasons which influenced Simon to make a profession of religion seem to have been these:

(1.) An impression that Christianity was true. He seems to have been convinced of this by the miracles of Philip.

(2.) The fact that many others were becoming Christians; and he went in with the multitude. This is often the case in revivals of religion.

(3.) He had no religion; but it is clear Acts 8:20,21, that he was willing to make use of Christianity to advance his own power, influence, and popularity--a thing which multitudes of men of the same mind with Simon Magus have been willing since to do.

He continued, etc. It was customary and natural for the disciples to remain with their teachers. See Acts 2:42.

And wondered. This is the same word that is translated bewitched in Acts 8:9,11. It means that he was amazed that Philip could really perform so much greater miracles than he had even pretended to. Hypocrites will sometimes be greatly attentive to the external duties of religion, and will be greatly surprised at what is done by God for the salvation of sinners.

Miracles and signs. Greek, Signs and great powers, or great miracles. That is, so much greater than he pretended to be able to perform.

{1} "miracles" "signs and great miracles"

Verse 14. They sent. That is, the apostles deputed two of their number. This shows conclusively that there was no chief or ruler among them. They acted as being equal in authority. The reason why they sent them was, probably, that there would be a demand for more labour than Philip could render; a church was to be founded, which required their presence; and it was important that they should be present to organize it, and to build it up. The harvest had occurred in Samaria, of which the Saviour spoke, John 4:35, and it was proper that they should enter into it. In times of revival there is often more to be done than can be done by the regular pastor of a people, and it is proper that he should be aided from abroad.

Peter. This shows that Peter had no such authority and primacy as the Roman Catholics claim far him. He exercised no authority of sending others, but was himself sent. He was appointed by their united voice, instead of claiming the power himself of directing them.

And John. Peter was ardent, bold, zealous, rash; John was mild, gentle, tender, persuasive. There was wisdom in uniting them in this work, as the talents of both were needed; and the excellencies in the character of the one would compensate for the defects of the other. It is observable that the apostles sent two together, as the Saviour had himself done. See Barnes "Mark 6:7". The reasons why this additional aid was sent to Samaria were probably these:

(1.) To assist Philip in a great work--in the harvest which he was there collecting.

(2.) To give the sanction of the authority of the apostles to what he was doing.

(3.) To confer on the converts the gift of the Holy Ghost, Acts 8:17.

Verse 15. Were come down. To Samaria. Jerusalem was generally represented as up, or higher than the rest of the land, Matthew 20:18; John 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 Acts 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, Acts 8:6. Everywhere the conversion of the sinner is traced to his influence. Comp. John 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 Acts 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, Acts 2, the power of working miracles, etc., Acts 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 Corinthians 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"

Verse 16. He was fallen. This expression is several times applied to the Holy Spirit, Acts 10:44; 11:15. It does not differ materially from the common expression, "the Holy Ghost descended." It means that he came from heaven; and the expression to fall, applied to his influences, denotes the rapidity and suddenness of his coming. Comp. Acts 19:2.

In the name of the Lord Jesus. See Barnes "Acts 2:38". See also Acts 10:48; 19:5,6.

{a} "as yet" Acts 19:2
{b} "were baptized" Acts 2:38; 10:48; 19:5,6; 1 Corinthians 1:13
{*} "in the name" "unto"

Verse 17. Then laid they their hands, etc. This was an act of prayer, expressing an invocation to God that he would impart the blessing to them. On how many they laid their hands is not said. It is evident that it was not on all, for they did not thus lay hands on Simon. Perhaps i.t was done on a few of the more prominent and leading persons, who were to be employed particularly in bearing witness to the truth of the gospel. It was customary to lay the hands on any person when a favour was to be conferred, or a blessing imparted. See Barnes "Matthew 9:18".

{c} "laid they their hands" Acts 6:5; Hebrews 6:2
{+} "Holy Ghost" "Holy Spirit"

Verse 18. Simon saw, etc. That is, he witnessed the extraordinary effects, the power of speaking in a miraculous manner, etc. See Barnes "Acts 8:15".

He offered them money. He had had a remarkable influence over the Samaritans, and he saw that the possession of this power would perpetuate and increase his influence. Men commonly employ the tricks of legerdemain for the purpose of making money; and it seems probable that such had been the design of Simon. He saw that if he could communicate to others this power, if he could confer on them the talent of speaking other languages, it might be turned to vast account, and he sought therefore to purchase it of the apostles. From this act of Simon we have derived our word simony, to denote the buying and selling of ecclesiastical preferment, or church offices, where religion is supported by the state. This act of Simon shows conclusively that he was influenced by improper motives in becoming connected with the church.

{d} "purchase" 1 Timothy 6:5

Verse 19. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 20. Thy money perish with thee. This is an expression of the horror and indignation of Peter at the base offer of Simon. It is not to be understood as an imprecation on Simon. The main idea is the apostle's contempt for the money, as if he regarded it as of no value. "Let your money go to destruction. We abhor your impious offer. We can freely see any amount of money destroyed, before we will be tempted to sell the gift of the Holy Ghost." But there was here also an expression of his belief that Simon also would perish. It was a declaration that he was hastening to ruin, and as if this was certain, Peter says, let your money perish too.

The gift of God. That which he has given, or conferred as a favour. The idea was absurd that that which God himself gives as a sovereign could be purchased. It was impious to think of attempting to buy with worthless gold that which was of so inestimable value. The gift of God here means the extraordinary influences of the Holy Ghost, Acts 10:45; 11:17. How can we pay a price to God? All that we can give, the silver, and the gold, and the cattle on a thousand hills, belong to him already. We have nothing which we can present for his favours. And yet there are many who seek to purchase the favour of God. Some do it by alms and prayers; some by penance and fasting; some by attempting to make their own hearts better, and by self-righteousness; and some by penitence and tears. All these will not purchase his favour. Salvation, like every other blessing, will be his gift; and if ever received, we must be willing to accept it on his own terms, at his own time, and in his own way. We are without merit; and if saved, it will be by the sovereign grace of God.

{e} "because thou thought" 2 Kings 5:15,16; Matthew 10:8
{f} "gift of God" Acts 10:45; 11:17

Verse 21. Neither part. You have no portion of the grace of God; that is, you are destitute of it altogether. This word commonly denotes the part of an inheritance which falls to one when it is divided.

Nor lot. This word means, properly, a portion which falls to one when an estate, or when spoil in war, is divided into portions, according to the number of those who are to be partakers, and the part of each one is determined by lot. The two words denote emphatically that he was in no sense a partaker of the favour of God.

In this matter. Greek, In this word, i.e. thing. That which is referred to here is the religion of Christ. He was not a Christian. It is remarkable that Peter judged him so soon, and when he had seen but one act of his. But it was an act which satisfied him that he was a stranger to religion. One act may sometimes bring out the whole character; it may evince the governing motives; it may show traits of character utterly inconsistent with true religion; and then it is as certain a criterion as any long series of acts.

Thy heart. Your affections, or governing motives; your principle of conduct. Comp. 2 Kings 10:15. You love gold and popularity, and not the gospel for what it is. There is no evidence here that Peter saw this in a miraculous manner, or by any supernatural influence. It was apparent and plain that Simon was not influenced by the pure, disinterested motives of the gospel, but by the love of power and of the world.

In the sight of God. That is, God sees or judges that your heart is not sincere and pure. No external profession is acceptable without the heart. Reader, is your heart right with God? Are your motives pure--and does God see there the exercise of holy, sincere, and benevolent affections towards him? God knows the motives; and with unerring certainty he will judge; and with unerring justice he will fix our doom, according to the affections of the heart.

{g} "neither part" Joshua 22:25
{h} "for thy heart" Psalms 78:36,37; Ezekiel 14:3

Verse 22. Repent therefore. Here we may remark,

(1.) that Simon was at this time an unconverted sinner.

(2.) That the command was given to him as such.

(3.) That he was required to do the thing; not to wait or seek merely, but actually to repent.

(4.) That this was to be the first step in his conversion. He was not even directed to pray first; but his first indispensable work was to repent, that is, to exercise proper sorrow for this sin, and to abandon his plan or principle of action. And this shows,

(1.) that all sinners are to be exhorted to repent, as their first work. They are not to be told to wait, and read, and pray, in the expectation that repentance will be given them. With such helps they can obtain, they are to do the thing.

(2.) Prayer will not be acceptable, or heard, unless the sinner comes repenting, that is, unless he regrets his sin, and desires to forsake it. Then, and then only, will he be heard. When he comes loving his sins, and resolving still to practise them, God will not hear him. When he comes desirous of forsaking them, grieved that he is guilty, and feeling his need of help, God will hear his prayer. See Isaiah 1:15; Micah 3:4; Proverbs 1:28; Psalms 66:18.

And pray God. Having a desire to forsake the sin, and to be pardoned, then pray to God to forgive. It would be absurd to ask forgiveness until a man felt his need of it. This shows that a sinner ought to pray, and how he ought to do it. It should be with a desire and purpose to forsake sin, and in that state of mind God will hear the prayer. Comp. Daniel 4:27.

If perhaps. There was no certainty that God would forgive him; nor is there any evidence either that Simon prayed, or that he was forgiven. This direction of Peter presents another important principle in regard to the conduct of sinners. They are to be directed to repent, not because they have the promise of forgiveness, and not because they hope to be forgiven, but because sin is a great evil, and because it is right and proper that they should repent, whether they are forgiven or not. That is to be left to the sovereign mercy of God. They are to repent of sin; and then they are to feel, not that they have any claim on God, but that they are dependent on him, and must be saved or lost at his will. They are not to suppose that their tears will purchase forgiveness, but that they lie at the foot of mercy, and that there is hope--not certainty--that God will forgive. The language of the humbled sinner is--

"Perhaps he will admit my plea, Perhaps will hear my prayer; But if I perish I will pray, And perish only there.

"I can but perish if I go; I am resolved to try, For if I stay away, I know I shall for ever die."

The thought, etc. Your purpose, or wish. Thoughts may be, therefore, evil, and need forgiveness. It is not open sin only that needs to be pardoned; it is the secret purpose of the soul.

{i} "if perhaps" Daniel 4:27; 2 Timothy 2:25

Verse 23. For I perceive. That is, by the act which he had done. His offer had shown a state of mind that was wholly inconsistent with true religion. One single sin may as certainly show that there is no true piety, as many acts of iniquity. It may be so decided, so malignant, so utterly inconsistent with just views, as at once to determine what the character is. The sin of Simon was of this character. Peter here does not appear to have claimed the power of judging the heart; but he judged, as all other men would, by the act.

In the gall. This word denotes properly bile, or that bitter, yellowish-green fluid that is secreted in the liver. Hence it means anything very bitter; and also any bad passion of the mind, as anger, malice, etc. We speak of bitterness of mind, etc.

Of bitterness. This is a Hebraism; the usual mode of expressing the superlative, and means excessive bitterness. The phrase is used respecting idolatry, Deuteronomy 29:18 "Lest there should be among, you a root that beareth gall and wormwood." A similar expression occurs in Hebrews 12:15, "Lest any root of bitterness springing up, trouble you," etc. Sin is thus represented as a bitter or poisonous thing; a thing not only unpleasant in its consequences, but ruinous in its character, as a poisonous plant would be in the midst of other plants. Jeremiah 2:19, "It is an evil and bitter thing that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God;" Jeremiah 4:18; Romans 3:14, "Whose mouth is full of cursings and bitterness;" Ephesians 4:31. The meaning here is, that the heart of Simon was full of dreadful, malignant sin.

Bond of iniquity. Or, that thou art bound by iniquity. That is, that it has the rule over you, and binds you as a slave. Sin is often thus represented as bondage and captivity. Sinners are represented as chained to it, and kept in hard servitude, Psalms 116:16; Proverbs 5:22, "He shall be holden with the cords of his sins;" Romans 7:23,24. These expressions prove conclusively that Simon was a stranger to religion.

{a} "gall of bitterness" Jeremiah 4:18; Hebrews 12:15
{b} "bond of iniquity" Psalms 116:16; Proverbs 5:22; Isaiah 28:22

Verse 24. Pray ye, etc. Here remark,

(1.) that Simon was directed to pray for himself, Acts 8:22, but he had no disposition to do that. Sinners will often ask others to pray for them, when they are too proud, or too much in love with sin, to pray for themselves.

(2.) The main thing that Peter wished to impress on him was a sense of his sin. Simon did not regard this, but looked only to the punishment. He was terrified and alarmed; and he sought to avoid future punishment; but he had no alarm about his sins. So it is often with sinners. So it was with Pharaoh, Exodus 8:28,32 and with Jeroboam, 1 Kings 13:6. And so sinners often quiet their own consciences by asking ministers and Christian friends to pray for them, while they still purpose to persevere in iniquity. If men expect to be saved, they must pray for themselves; and pray, not chiefly to be freed from punishment, but from the sin which deserves hell. This is all that we hear of Simon in the New Testament; and the probability is, that, like many other sinners, he did not pray for himself, but continued to live in the gall of bitterness, and died in the bond of iniquity. The testimony of antiquity is decided on that point. See Barnes "Acts 8:9".

{c} "Pray ye" Exodus 8:8; Numbers 21:7; 1 Kings 13:6; Job 42:8; James 5:16

Verse 25. In many villages, etc. They went at first directly to the city of Samaria. On their return to Jerusalem, they travelled more at leisure, and preached in the villages also--a good example for the ministers of the gospel, and for all Christians, when travelling from place to place. The reason why they returned to Jerusalem, and made that their permanent abode, might have been, that it was important to bear witness to the resurrection of Christ in the very city where he had been crucified, and where his resurrection had occurred. If the doctrine was established there, it would be more easy to establish it elsewhere.

Verse 26. And the angel of the Lord. The word angel is used in the Scriptures in a great variety of significations. See Barnes "Matthew 1:20". Here it has been supposed by some to mean literally a celestial messenger sent from God; others have supposed that it means a dream, others a vision, etc. The word properly means a messenger; and all that it can be shown to signify here is, that the Lord sent a message to Philip of this kind. It is most probable, I think, that the passage means that God communicated the message by his Spirit; for, in Acts 8:29,39, it is expressly said that the Spirit spake to Philip, etc. Thus in Acts 16:7, the Spirit is said to have forbidden Paul to preach in Bithynia; and in Acts 16:9, the message on the subject is said to have been conveyed in a vision. There is no absurdity, however, in supposing that an angel literally was employed to communicate this message to Philip. See Hebrews 1:14; Genesis 19:1; 22:11; Judges 6:12.

Spake unto Philip. Comp. Matthew 2:13.

Arise. See Barnes "Luke 15:18".

And go, etc. philip had been employed in Samaria. As God now intended to send the gospel to another place, he gave a special direction to Philip to go and convey it. It is evident that God designed the conversion of this eunuch; and the direction to Philip shows how he accomplishes his designs. It is not by miracle, but by the use of means. It is not by direct power without truth, but it is by a message fitted to the end. The salvation of a single sinner is an object worthy the attention of God. When such a sinner is converted, it is because God forms a plan or purpose to do it. When it is done, he inclines his servants to labour; he directs their labours; he leads his ministers; and he prepares the way Acts 8:28 for the reception of the truth.

Toward the south. That is, south of Samaria, where Philip was then labouring.

Unto Gaza. Gaza, or AZZAH, Genesis 10:19, was a city of the Philistines, given by Joshua to Judah, Joshua 15:47; 1 Samuel 6:17. It was one of the five principal cities of the Philistines. It was formerly a large place; was situated on an eminence, and commanded a beautiful prospect. It was in this place that Samson took away the gates of the city, and bore them off, Judges 16:2,3. It was near Askelon, about sixty miles south-west from Jerusalem.

Which is desert. This may refer either to the way or to the place. The natural construction is the latter. In explanation of this, it is to be observed that there were two towns of that name, Old and New Gaza. The prophet Zephaniah Zephaniah 2:4 said that Gaza should be forsaken, i. e., destroyed. "This was partly accomplished by Alexander the Great. (Jos. Antiq. b. xi. ch. viii.  3, 4; b. xiii. ch. xiii.  3.) Another town was afterwards built of the same name, but at some distance from the former; and Old Gaza was abandoned to destruction. Strabo mentions 'Gaza the desert,' and Diodorous Siculus speaks of 'Old Gaza.'" (Robin. Calmet.) Some have supposed, however, that Luke refers here to the road leading to Gaza, as being desolate and uninhabited. But I regard the former interpretation as most natural and obvious. In this place, in 1823, the American missionaries, Messrs. Fisk and King, found Gaza, a town built of stone, making a very mean appearance, and containing about five thousand inhabitants." (Hall on the Acts.)

{d} "unto Gaza" Joshua 15:47

Verse 27. A Man of Ethiopia. Gaza was near the confines between Palestine and Egypt. It was in the direct road from Jerusalem to Egypt. Ethiopia was one of the great kingdoms of Africa, part of which is now called Abyssinia. It is frequently mentioned in Scriptare under the name of Cush. But Cush comprehended a much larger region, including the southern part of Arabia, and even sometimes the countries adjacent to the Tigris and Euphrates. Ethiopia Proper lay south of Egypt, on the Nile, and was bounded north by Egypt, that is, by the cataracts near Syene; east by the Red Sea, and perhaps part by the Indian Ocean; south by unknown regions in the interior of Africa; and west by Lybia and the deserts. It comprehended the modern kingdoms of Nubia or Sennaar, and Abyssinia. The chief city in it was the ancient Meroe, situated on the island or tract of the same name, between the Nile and Ashtaborus, not far from the modern Shendi. (Robinson's Calmet,)

An eunuch, etc. See Barnes "Matthew 19:12". Eunuchs were commonly employed in attendance on the females of the harem; but the word is often used to denote any confidential officer, or counsellor of state. It is evidently so used here.

Of great authority. Of high rank; an officer of the court. It is clear, from what follows, that this man was a Jew. But it is known that Jews were often raised to posts of high honour and distinction in foreign courts, as in the case of Joseph in Egypt, and of Daniel in Babylon.

Under Candace, etc. Candace is said to have been the common name of the queens of Ethiopia, as Pharaoh was of the sovereigns of Egypt. This is expressly stated by Pliny. (Nat. Hist. vii. 29.) His words are, "The edifices of the city were few; a woman reigned there of the name of CANDACE, which name had been transmitted to these queens for many years." Strabo mentions also a queen of Ethiopia of the name of Candace. Speaking of an insurrection against the Romans, he says, "Among these were the officers of queen CANDANCE, who in our days reigned over the Ethiopians." As this could not have been the Candace mentioned here, it is plain that the name was common to these queens--a sort of royal title. She was probably queen of Meroe, an important part of Ethiopia. (Bruce's Travels, vol. ii. p. 431--Clarke.)

Who had the charge, etc. The treasurer was an officer of high trust and responsibility.

And had come, etc. This proves that he was a Jew, or at least a Jewish proselyte. It was customary for the Jews in foreign lands, as far as practicable, to attend the great feasts at Jerusalem. He had gone up to attend the Passover, etc. See Barnes "Acts 2:5".

{e} "man of Ethiopia" Zephaniah 3:10
{f} "an eunuch of high" Isaiah 56:3-5

Verse 28. And sitting in his chariot. His carriage; his vehicle. The form of the carriage is not known. In some instances the carriages of the ancients were placed on wheels; in others, were borne on poles in the form of a litter or palanquin, by men, or mules, or horses. (See Calmet, art. Chariot.)

Read Esaias, etc. Isaiah. Reading doubtless the translation of Isaiah called the Septuagint. This translation was made in Egypt, for the special use of the Jews in Alexandria and throughout Egypt, and was that which was commonly used. Why he was reading the Scriptures, and especially this prophet, is not certainly known. It is morally certain, however, that he was in Judea at the time of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus; that he had heard much of him; that this would be a subject of discussion; and it was natural for him, in returning, to look at the prophecies respecting the Messiah, perhaps either to meditate on them as a suitable subject of inquiry and thought, or perhaps to examine the claims of Jesus of Nazareth to this office. The prophecy in Isaiah 53 was so striking, and coincided so clearly with the character of Jesus, that it was natural for a candid mind to examine whether he might not be the person intended by the prophet. On this narrative we may remark:

(1.) It is a proper and profitable employment on returning from worship to examine the sacred Scriptures.

(2.) It is well to be in the habit of reading the Scriptures when we are on a journey. It may serve to keep the heart from worldly objects, and secure the affections for God.

(3.) It is well at all times to read the Bible. It is one of the means of grace. And it is when we are searching his will that we obtain light and comfort. The sinner should examine with a candid mind the sacred volume. It may be the means of conducting him in the true path of salvation.

(4.) God often gives us light in regard to the meaning of the Bible in unexpected modes. How little did this eunuch expect to be enlightened in the manner in which he actually was. Yet God, who intended to instruct and save him, sent the living teacher, and opened to him the sacred Scriptures, and led him to the Saviour. It is probable Acts 8:30 that he was reading it aloud.

Verse 29. The Spirit. See Barnes "Acts 8:26". The Holy Spirit is here evidently intended. The thought in Philip's mind is here traced to his suggestion. All good thoughts and designs have the same origin.

Join thyself. Join him in his chariot. Go and sit with him.

{b} "Then the Spirit said to Philip" Isaiah 65:24; Hosea 6:3

Verse 30. And Philip ran, etc. Indicating his haste, and his desire to obey the suggestions of the Spirit. A thousand difficulties might have been started in the mind of Philip if he had reflected a little. The eunuch was a stranger; he had the appearance of a man of rank; he was engaged in reading; he might be indisposed to be interrupted or to converse, etc. But Philip obeyed without any hesitation the monitions of the Spirit, and ran to him. It is well to follow the first suggestions of the Spirit; to yield to the clear indications of duty, and to perform it at once. Especially in a deed of benevolence, and in conversing with others on the subject of religion, our first thoughts are commonly safest and best. If we do not follow them, the calculations of avarice, or fear, or some worldly prudence, are very apt to come in. We become alarmed; we are afraid of the rich and the great; and we suppose that our conversation and admonitions will be unacceptable. We may learn from this case,

(1.) to do our duty at once, without hesitation or debate.

(2.) We shall often be disappointed in regard to subjects of this kind. We shall find candid, humble, Christian conversation far more acceptable to strangers, to the rich, and to the great, than we commonly suppose. If, as in this case, they are alone; if we approach them kindly; if we do not rudely and harshly address them, we shall find most men willing to talk on the subject of religion. I have conversed with some hundreds of persons on the subject of religion, and do not now recollect but two instances in which I was rudely treated, and in which it was not easy to gain a respectful and kind attention to Christian conversation.

And heard him read. He was reading loud--sometimes the best way of impressing truth on the mind in our private reading the Scriptures.

And said, etc. This question, there might have been reason to fear, would not be kindly received. But the eunuch's mind was in such a state that he took no offence from such inquiry, though made by a foot-man and a stranger. He doubtless recognized him as a brother Jew. It is an important question to ask ourselves when we read the sacred Scriptures.

{c} "Understandest thou what thou readest? Matthew 13:23,51; Ephesians 5:17

Verse 31. And he said, etc. This was a general acknowledgment of his need of direction. It evinced a humble state of mind. It was an acknowledgment, also, originating probably from this particular passage which he was reading. He did not understand how it could be applied to the Messiah; how the description of his humiliation and condemnation Acts 8:33 could be reconciled to the prevalent ideas of his being a prince and a conqueror. The same sentiment is expressed by Paul in Romans 10:14. The circumstances, the state of mind in the eunuch, and the result, strongly remind one of the declaration in Psalms 25:9, "The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way."

And he desired, etc. He was willing to receive instruction even from a stranger. The rich and the great may often receive valuable instruction from a stranger, and from a poor, unknown man.

{d} "How can I" Romans 10:14
{e} "some man should guide me" Psalms 25:9

Verse 32. The place, etc. Isaiah 53:7,8.

He was led, etc. This quotation is taken literally from the Septuagint. It varies very little from the Hebrew. It has been almost universally understood that this place refers to the Messiah; and Philip expressly applies it to him. The word "was led" \~hcyh\~, implies that he was conducted by others; that he was led as a sheep is led to be killed. The general idea is that of meekness and submission when he was led to be put to death; a description that applies in a very striking manner to the Lord Jesus.

To the slaughter. To be killed. The characteristic here recorded is more remarkable in the sheep than in any other animal.

And like a lamb dumb, etc. Still, patient, unresisting.

So opened he not his mouth. He did not complain, or murmur; he offered no resistance, but yielded patiently to what was done by others.

{f} "He was lead" Isaiah 53:7,8

Verse 33. In his humiliation. This varies from the Hebrew, but is copied exactly from the Septuagint, showing that he was reading the Septuagint. The Hebrew is, "he was taken from prison, and from judgment." The word rendered "prison" denotes any kind of detention, or even oppression. It does not mean, as with us, to be confined in a prison or jail, but may mean custody, and be applied to the detention or custody of the Saviour when his hands were bound, and he was led to be tried. See Barnes "Matthew 27:2". It is not known why the Seventy thus translated the expression "he was taken from prison" etc., by "in his humiliation," etc. The word "from prison," may mean, as has been remarked, however, from oppression, and this does not differ materially from humiliation; and in this sense the Seventy understood it. The meaning of the expression in the Septuagint and the Acts is clear. It denotes that in his state of oppression and calamity, when he was destitute of protectors and friends, when at the lowest state of his humiliation, and, therefore, most the object of pity, that in addition to that, justice was denied him, his judgment--a just sentence--was taken away, or withheld, and he was delivered to be put to death. His deep humiliation and friendless state was followed by an unjust and cruel condemnation, when no one would stand forth to plead his cause. Every circumstance thus goes to deepen the view of his sufferings.

His judgment. Justice, a just sentence, was denied him, and he was cruelly condemned.

And who shall declare his generation? The word generation, used here, properly denotes posterity; then an age of mankind, comprehending about thirty years, as we speak of this and the next generation; then it denotes the men of a particular age or time. Very various interpretations have been given of this expression. Lowth translates it, "His manner of life, who would declare?" referring, as he supposes, to the fact that when a prisoner was condemned and led to execution, it was customary for a proclamation to be made by a crier in these words, "Whoever knows anything about his innocence, let him come and declare it." This passage is taken from the Gemara of Babylon.--Kennicott, as quoted by Lowth. The same Gemara of Babylon on this passage adds, that "before the death of Jesus, this proclamation was made forty days; but no defence could be found"--a manifest falsehood; and a story strikingly illustrative of the character of the Jewish writings. The Gemara was written some time after Christ, perhaps not far from the year 180, Lardher, and is a collection of commentaries on the traditional laws of the Jews. That this custom existed is very probable; but it is certain that no such thing was done on the trim of the Saviour. But instances are wanting where the word "generation" has this meaning. The Chaldee paraphrase translates the passage in Isaiah, "He shall collect our captivity from infirmities and vengeance; and who can declare what wonderful things shall be done for us in his days?" Others have referred this question to his Deity, or Divine generation; intimating that no one could explain the mystery of his eternal generation. But the word in the Scriptures has no such signification; and such a sense would not suit the connexion. (See Calvin, in loco.) Others have referred it to his own spiritual posterity, his disciples, his family: "The number of his friends and followers who could enumerate?"--Calvin, Beza, etc. But this as little suits the connexion. Another sense which the word has, is to denote the men of any particular age or time, Matthew 11:16; 23:36; Luke 16:8, etc. And it has been supposed that the question here means, "Who can describe the character and wickedness of the generation when he shall breathe enormous crime of that age, in putting him to death?' This, perhaps, is the most probable interpretation of the question, for these reasons:

(1.) It is the most usual signification of the word, (see Schleusner,) and would be its obvious meaning in any other connexion.

(2.) It suits the connexion here. For the prophet immediately adds as a reason for the fact that no one can describe that generation, that he was put to death--a deed so enormous, as to make it impossible to describe the wickedness of the generation that would do it. This was the sum, the crowning act of human guilt--a deed so enormous as to defy all attempt at description. The murder of the Messiah; the crucifixion of the Son of God; the killing of the highest Messenger that heaven could send, was the consummation of all earthly wickedness. There was no other deed so enormous that could be performed; and there were no words to describe this. The same thing is implied in what the Saviour himself said, Matthew 23:37,38; Luke 13:34,35; 19:42, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem," etc. The idea in these places is, that notwithstanding their sin in killing the prophets, and stoning those who had been sent to them, he would still have been willing to receive and pardon them, but for this enormous act of wickedness in putting the Messiah to death--a deed which they were about to accomplish, and which should be attended with the destruction of their state and nation. The Hebrew word "declare" Isaiah 53:8 means, properly, to meditate, to think of, and then to speak, to declare. It means probably in that place," Who can think of, who can conceive the enormity of the crimes of that age, so as fully to publish or declare them?"

For his life, etc. This is the act of wickedness just referred to--putting the Messiah to death. The Hebrew is, "For he was cut off from the land of the living," i. e., he was put to death. The expression used in the Acts was taken from the Septuagint, and means substantially the same as the Hebrew.

{*} "generation" "The men of his generation who can describe"

Verse 34. Answered Philip. That is, addressed Philip. The Hebrews often use the word answer as synonymous with addressing one, whether he had spoken or not.

Of himself, etc. This was a natural inquiry, for there was nothing in the text itself that would determine expressly to whom the reference was. The ancient Jews expressly applied the passage to the Messiah. Thus the Targum of Jonathan on Isaiah 52:13, "Behold, my servant shall deal prudently," etc., renders it, "Behold, my servant, the Messiah, shall be prospered," etc. But we should remember that the eunuch was probably not deeply versed in the Scriptures. We should remember, further, that he had just been at Jerusalem, and that the public mind was agitated about the proceedings of the sanhedrim in putting Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the Messiah, to death. It is by no means improbable that this passage had been urged as a proof that he was the Messiah; and that the Jews, to evade the force of it, had maintained that it referred to Isaiah or Jeremiah--as they have since done. Yet the subject was so important and so difficult, that it had occupied the attention of the traveller during his journey; and his question shows that he had been deeply pondering the inquiry whether it could refer to Isaiah, or whether it must have reference to the Messiah. In this state of suspense and agitation, when his mind was just fitted to receive instruction, God sent a messenger to guide him. He often thus prepares, by his providence, or by a train of affecting and solemn events, the minds of men for a reception of the truth; and then he sends his messengers to guide the mind, thoughtful and anxious, in the way of peace and salvation.

Verse 35. Opened his mouth. See Matthew 5:2.

At the same Scripture. Taking this as a text to be illustrated.

Preached unto him Jesus. Showed him that Jesus of Nazareth exactly answered to the description of the prophet; and that therefore the prophet referred to the Messiah, and that that Messiah was Jesus of Nazareth. How far Philip detailed the circumstances of the life and death of Christ is unknown. What follows shows also that he stated the design of baptism, and the duty of being baptized.

{a} "at the same Scripture" Luke 24:27
{b} "and preached unto him" Acts 18:28

Verse 36. As they went on their way.

A certain water. The expression used here does not determine whether this was a river, a brook, or a pond or standing pool. And there are no circumstances to determine that. It is well known, however, that there is no large river, or very considerable stream, in this vicinity. All that is intimated is, that there was water enough to perform the rite of baptism, whether that was by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. It must be admitted, I think, that there might have been water enough for either. Grotius says they came "to a fountain which was in the neighbourhood of Bethsora, in the tribe of Juda, at the twentieth milestone from AElia (Jerusalem) to Hebron." This is, however, a tradition taken from Eusebius. The place is still shown.--Pococke.

What doth hinder me, etc. This shows that he had been instructed by Philip in the nature and design of baptism. It evinces also a purpose at once to give himself to Christ, to profess his name, and to be dedicated to his service.

To be baptized. On the meaning of the word baptize, See Barnes "Matthew 3:6".

{c} "what doth hinder me" Acts 10:47

Verse 37. And Philip said, etc. This was then stated to be the proper qualification for making a profession of religion. The terms are:

(1.) Faith, that is, a reception of Jesus as a Saviour; yielding the mind to the proper influences of the truths of redemption. See Barnes "Mark 16:16".

(2.) There is required not merely the assent of the understanding, but a surrender of the heart, the will, the affections, to the truth of the gospel. As these were the proper qualifications then, so they are now. Nothing less is required; and nothing but this can constitute a proper qualification for the Lord's Supper.

I believe, etc. This profession is more than a professed belief that Jesus was the Messiah. The name Christ implies that. "I believe that Jesus the Messiah" is, etc. In addition to this, he professed his belief that he was the Son of God--showing either that he had before supposed that the Messiah would be the Son of God, or that Philip had instructed him on that point. It was natural for Philip, in discoursing on the humiliation and poverty of Jesus, to add also that he sustained a higher rank of being than a man, and was the Son of God. What precise ideas the eunuch attached to this expression cannot be now determined. This verse is wanting in a very large number of manuscripts, (Mill,) and has been rejected by many of the ablest critics. It is also omitted in the Syriac and Ethiopic versions. It is not easy to conceive why it has been omitted in almost all the Greek Mss., unless it is spurious. If it was not in the original copy of the Acts, it was probably inserted by some early transcriber, and was deemed so important to the connexion, to show that the eunuch was not admitted hastily to baptism, that it was afterwards retained. It contains, however, an important truth, elsewhere abundantly taught in the Scriptures, that faith is necessary to a proper profession of religion.

{d} "If thou believest" Mark 16:16; Acts 8:12
{a} "I believe that Jesus Christ" John 11:27; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 John 4:15.

Verse 38. And they went down both into the water. This passage has been made the subject of much discussion on the subject of baptism. It has been adduced in proof of the necessity of immersion. It is not proposed to enter into that subject here. See Barnes "Matthew 3:6". It maybe remarked here, that the preposition \~eiv\~, translated here "into," does not of necessity mean that. Its meaning would be as well expressed by "to," or "unto," or, as we should say, "they went to the water," without meaning to determine whether they went into it or not. Out of twenty-six significations which Schleusner has given the word, this is one. John 11:38: "Jesus therefore groaning in himself, cometh to \~eiv\~ the grave "--assuredly not into the grave. Luke 11:49: I send them prophets. Greek, I send to \~eiv\~ them prophets" --to them, not into them. Comp. Romans 2:4; 1 Corinthians 14:36; Matthew 12:41: "They repented at \~eiv\~ the preaching of Jonas"--not into his preaching, John 4:5: "Then cometh he to \~eiv\~ a city of Samaria," that is, near to it; for the context shows that he had not yet entered into it. Comp. John 4:6,8 John 21:4: "Jesus stood on \~eiv\~ the shore;" that is, not in, but near the shore. These passages show that the word does not necessarily mean that they entered into the water; but

(1.) if it did, it does not necessarily follow that the eunuch was immersed. There might be various ways of baptizing, even after they were in the water, besides immersing. Sprinkling or pouring might be performed there as well as elsewhere.

(2.) It is incumbent on those who maintain that immersion is the only valid mode of baptism, to prove that this passage cannot possibly mean anything else, and that there was no other mode practised by the apostles.

(3.) It would be still incumbent to show that if this were the common and even the only mode then, in a warm climate, etc., that it is indispensable that this mode should be practised everywhere else. No such positive command can be adduced. And it follows, therefore, that it cannot be proved that immersion is the only lawful mode of baptism. See Barnes "Matthew 3:6".

Verse 39. Out of the water, \~ek\~. This preposition stands opposed to \~eiv\~ "into;" and as that may mean to, so this may mean from; if that means into, this means here out of.

The Spirit of the Lord. Acts 8:29. The Spirit had suggested to Philip to go to meet the eunuch; and the same Spirit, now that he had fulfilled the design of his going there, directed his departure.

Caught away. This phrase has been usually understood of a forcible or miraculous removal of Philip to some other place. Some have even supposed that he was borne through the air by an angel. (See even Doddridge.) To such foolish interpretations have many expositors been led. The meaning is, clearly, that the Spirit, who had directed Philip to go near the eunuch, now removed him in a similar manner. That this is the meaning is clear,

(1.) because it accounts for all that occurred. It is not wise to suppose the existence of a miracle, except where the effect cannot otherwise be accounted for, and except where there is a plain statement that there was a miracle.

(2.) The word "caught away" \~hrpase\~ does not imply that there was a miracle. The word properly means, to seize and bear away anything violently, without the consent of the owner, as robbers and plunderers do. Then it signifies to remove anything in a forcible manner; to make use of strength or power to remove it, Acts 23:10; Matthew 13:19; John 10:28; 2 Corinthians 12:2,4, etc. In no case does it ever denote that a miracle is performed. And :all that can be signified here is, that the Spirit strongly admonished Philip to go to some other place; that he so forcibly or vividly suggested the duty to his mind, as to tear him away, as it were, from the society of the eunuch. He had been deeply interested in the case. He would have found pleasure in continuing the journey with him. But the strong convictions of duty, urged by the Holy Spirit, impelled him, as it were, to break off this new and interesting acquaintanceship, and to go to some other place. The purpose for which he was sent, to instruct and baptize the eunuch, was accomplished, and now he was called to some other field of labour. A similar instance of interpretation has been considered See Barnes "Matthew 4:5".

And he went on his way rejoicing. His mind was enlightened on a perplexing passage of scripture. He was satisfied respecting the Messiah. He was baptized; and he experienced that which all feel who embrace the Saviour and are baptized, joy. It was joy resulting from the fact that he was reconciled to God; and a joy, the natural effect of having done his duty promptly, in making a profession of religion. If we wish happiness, if we would avoid clouds and gloom, we shall do our duty at once. If we delay till tomorrow what we ought to do today, we may expect to be troubled with melancholy thoughts. If we find peace, it will be in doing promptly: just that which God requires at our hands. This is the last that we hear of this man. Some have supposed that this eunuch carried the gospel to Ethiopia, and preached it there. But there is strong evidence to believe that the gospel was not preached there successfully until about the year 330, when it was introduced by Frumentius, sent to Abyssinia for that purpose by Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria. From this narrative we may learn,

(1.) that God often prepares the mind to receive the truth.

(2.) That this takes place sometimes with the great and the noble, as well as the poor and obscure.

(3.) We should study the Scriptures. It is the way in which God usually directs the mind in the truths of religion.

(4.) They who read the Bible with candour and care may expect that God will, in some mode, guide them into the truth. It will often be in a way which they least expect; but they need not be afraid of being left to darkness or error.

(5.) We should be ready at all times to speak to sinners. God often prepares their minds, as he did that of the eunuch, to receive the truth.

(6.) We should not be afraid of the great, the rich, or of strangers. God often prepares their minds to receive the truth; and we may find a man willing to hear of the Saviour where we least expected it.

(7.) We should do our duty in this respect, as Philip did, promptly. We should not delay or hesitate; but should at once do that which we believe is in accordance with the will of God. See Psalms 119:60.

{b} "caught away" 1 Kings 18:12; Ezekiel 3:12,14
{c} "rejoicing" Psalms 119:14,111

Verse 40. But Philip was found. That is, he came to Azotus; or, he was not heard of until he reached Azotus. The word is often used in this sense. See 1 Chronicles 29:17, margin; 2 Chronicles 29:29, margin; Genesis 2:20. See also Luke 17:18; Romans 7:10. In all these places the word is used in the sense of to be, or to be present. It does not mean here that there was any miracle in the case, but that Philip, after leaving the eunuch, came to or was in Azotus.

Azotus. This is the Greek name of the city, which by the Hebrews was called Ashdod. It was one of the cities which were not taken by Joshua, and which remained in the possession of the Philistines. It was to this place that the ark of God was sent when it was taken by the Philistines from the Israelites; and here Dagon was cast down before it, 1 Samuel 5:2,3. Uzziah, king of Judah, broke down its wall, and built cities or watch-towers around it, 2 Chronicles 26:6. It was a place of great strength and consequence. It was distant about thirty miles from Gaza. It was situated on the coast of the Mediterranean, and was a seaport. The distance which Philip had to travel, therefore, was not very great; and as Azotus lay almost directly north of Gaza, it shows that, in order to reach it, he must have parted from the eunuch, whose route was almost directly south of Gaza. It is at present inhabited by Arabs chiefly, and is by them called Mezdel. Dr. Wittman describes it at present as being entered by two small gates. In passing through it, he saw several fragments of columns, capitals, etc. In the centre of the town is a handsome mosque, with a minaret. The surrounding country is represented as remarkably verdant and beautiful. In the neighbourhood there stands an abundance of fine old olive-trees, and the region around it is fertile.

He preached in all the cities. Joppa, Lydda, Askelon, Arimathea, etc., lying along the coast of the Mediterranean.

Caesarea. This city was formerly called Strato's Tower. It is situated on the coast of the Mediterranean, at the mouth of a small river, and has a fine harbour. It is thirty-six miles south of Acre, and about sixty-two north-west of Jerusalem, and about the same distance north-east of Azotus. This city is supposed by some to be the Hazor mentioned in Joshua 11:1. It was rebuilt by Herod the Great, and named Caesarea in honour of Augustus Caesar. The city was dedicated to him; the seaport was called Sebaste, the Greek word for Augustus. It was adorned with most splendid houses; and the temple of Caesar was erected by Herod over against the mouth of the haven, in which was placed the statue of the Roman emperor. It became the seat of the Roman governor, while Judea was a Roman province, Acts 23:33; Acts 25:6,13. Philip afterwards resided at this place. See Acts 21:8,9. Caesarea at present is inhabited only by jackals and beasts of prey. "Perhaps," says Dr. Clarke, "there has not been in the history of the world an example of any city that, in so short a space of time, rose to such an extraordinary height of splendour as did this of Caesarea; or that exhibits a more awful contrast to its former magnificence, by the present desolate appearance of its ruins. Not a single inhabitant remains. Of its gorgeous palaces and temples, enriched with the choicest Works of art, scarcely a trace can be discerned. Within the space of ten years after laying the foundation, from an obscure fortress, it became the most flourishing and celebrated city of all Syria." Now it is in utter desolation. (See Robinson's Calmet, Art. Caesarea.)

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Acts 8". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". <>.  


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