Acts 8:18
And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
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(18, 19) When Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands. . . .—The words imply that the result was something visible and conspicuous. A change was wrought; and men spoke with tongues and prophesied. To the sorcerer, accustomed to charms and incantations, the men who were in possession of this power would seem to be enchanters with a higher knowledge than his own, and he who had purchased many such secrets, after the manner of the time (comp. Acts 19:19), from previous masters in the magic art, thought that this might be obtained in the same way. The act thus recorded has given its name to a large class of offences in ecclesiastical jurisprudence, and the sin of Simony in all its forms, the act of purchasing spiritual powers and functions, perpetuates the infamy of the magician of Samaria.

Acts 8:18-19. And when Simon — The magician, spoken of before; saw — With astonishment; that through laying on of the apostles’ hands — On the heads of many individuals, lately converted to the Christian faith; the Holy Ghost was given — In his extraordinary operations; he offered them money — And hence the procuring any ministerial function, or ecclesiastical benefice, by money, is termed Simony: saying, Give me also this power — Let me prevail with you, by this reward, to confer on me the power which I have seen you exercise with so much ease. It seems Simon imagined, if by the imposition of his hands he could confer such gifts as Peter and John conferred, it would turn considerably to his honour and advantage; and especially if he could, by this means, communicate to whom he would the knowledge of languages, which they had never been at the trouble of learning in a natural way. “Simon,” says Henry, “did not desire the apostles to lay their hands on him, that he might receive the Holy Ghost himself, for he did not foresee that any thing was to be got by that; but that they would convey to him a power to bestow the gift upon others; he was ambitious to have the honour of an apostle, but not at all solicitous to have the spirit or disposition of a Christian: he was more desirous to gain honour to himself than to do good to others. Now in making this motion, 1st, He put a great affront upon the apostles, as if they were mercenary men, who would do any thing for money. 2d, He put a great affront upon Christianity, as if the miracles that were wrought in confirmation of it were done by magic arts, only of a different nature from those which he himself had practised formerly.” Indeed, as Dr. Whitby observes, “The sin of Simon struck at the very foundation of the Christian faith; supposing that the apostles, and other Christians, did their miracles by some higher art of magic than that which he had learned, and so that they, by the same art, could teach others to do the same works for any other end.” “3d, He showed that, like Balaam, he aimed at the rewards of divination; for he would not have bid money for this power, if he had not hoped to get money by Acts 2:4 th, He showed that he had a very high conceit of himself, and that his heart had never been truly humbled.”

8:14-25 The Holy Ghost was as yet fallen upon none of these coverts, in the extraordinary powers conveyed by the descent of the Spirit upon the day of Pentecost. We may take encouragement from this example, in praying to God to give the renewing graces of the Holy Ghost to all for whose spiritual welfare we are concerned; for that includes all blessings. No man can give the Holy Spirit by the laying on of his hands; but we should use our best endeavours to instruct those for whom we pray. Simon Magus was ambitious to have the honour of an apostle, but cared not at all to have the spirit and disposition of a Christian. He was more desirous to gain honour to himself, than to do good to others. Peter shows him his crime. He esteemed the wealth of this world, as if it would answer for things relating to the other life, and would purchase the pardon of sin, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and eternal life. This was such a condemning error as could by no means consist with a state of grace. Our hearts are what they are in the sight of God, who cannot be deceived. And if they are not right in his sight, our religion is vain, and will stand us in no stead. A proud and covetous heart cannot be right with God. It is possible for a man to continue under the power of sin, yet to put on a form of godliness. When tempted with money to do evil, see what a perishing thing money is, and scorn it. Think not that Christianity is a trade to live by in this world. There is much wickedness in the thought of the heart, its false notions, and corrupt affections, and wicked projects, which must be repented of, or we are undone. But it shall be forgiven, upon our repentance. The doubt here is of the sincerity of Simon's repentance, not of his pardon, if his repentance was sincere. Grant us, Lord, another sort of faith than that which made Simon wonder only, and did not sanctify his heart. May we abhor all thoughts of making religion serve the purposes of pride or ambition. And keep us from that subtle poison of spiritual pride, which seeks glory to itself even from humility. May we seek only the honour which cometh from God.Simon saw ... - That is, he witnessed the extraordinary effects, the power of speaking in a miraculous manner, etc. See the notes on 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. People 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.

18-24. offered them money—Hence the term simony, to denote trafficking in sacred things, but chiefly the purchase of ecclesiastical offices. The Holy Ghost; those extraordinary gifts before mentioned; for this appeared visibly and audibly, and by this indeed was signified the great change God’s Spirit makes where he comes.

He offered them money; this notorious hypocrite values these outward gifts; how much more valuable are the inward and spiritual gifts of God!

And when Simon saw,.... Whence it appears, that the Holy Ghost, or his gifts, which were received by imposition of hands, were something visible and discernible; and so something external, and not internal; otherwise they would have been out of Simon's reach, and would not have fallen under his notice; but he saw,

that through laying on of the apostles' hands, the Holy Ghost was given: he saw, that upon this men began to prophesy, and to speak with divers tongues they had never learned, and to work miracles, cure men of their diseases, and the like: and when he observed this,

he offered them money; to purchase such a power of conferring the like gifts, on whomsoever he should lay his hands: hence buying and selling spiritual things, or what relate thereunto, are commonly called "simony": a vice which has greatly prevailed in the church of Rome, and among its popes; and who therefore may be more properly called the successors of Simon Magus, than of Simon Peter.

{8} And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

(8) Covetousness and the seeking of glory at length remove the hypocrites from their dens.

Acts 8:18. The communication of the Spirit was visible (ἰδών, see the critical remarks) in the gestures and gesticulations of those who had received it, perhaps also in similar phenomena to those which took place at Pentecost in Jerusalem.

Did Simon himself receive the Spirit? Certainly not, as this would have rendered him incapable of so soon making the offer of money. He saw the result of the apostolic imposition of hands on others,—thereupon his impatient desire waits not even for his own experience (the power of the apostolic prayer would have embraced him also and filled him with the Spirit), and, before it came to his turn to receive the imposition of hands, he makes his proposal, perhaps even as a condition of allowing the hands to be laid upon him. The opinion of Kuinoel, that from pride he did not consider it at all necessary that the hands should be laid on him, is entirely imaginary. The motive of his proposal was selfishness in the interest of his magical trade; very naturally he valued the communication of the Spirit, to the inward experience of which he was a stranger, only according to the surprising outward phenomena, and hence saw in the apostles the possessors of a higher magical power still unknown to himself, the possession of which he as a sorcerer coveted, “ne quid sibi deesset ad ostentationem et quaestum,” Erasmus.

Acts 8:18. θεασάμενος: the word would seem to point on (so ἰδών, see critical notes) to some outward manifestation of the inward grace of the Spirit, so Weiss, Wendt, Zöckler; so Felten, although he does not of course limit the reception of the Holy Spirit to such outward evidences of His Presence. The word may further give us an insight into Simon’s character and belief—the gift of the Spirit was valuable to him in its external manifestation, in so far, that is, as it presented itself to ocular demonstration as a higher power than his own magic.—διὰ τῆς ἐπιθ. τῶς χ. τῶν ἀποστ., see above on Acts 8:17, cf. διά, “the laying on of hands” was the instrument by which the Holy Ghost was given in this instance: “Church,” Hastings’ B.D., i., 426.—προσήνεγκεν αὐτοῖς χρήματα: Simon was right in so far as he regarded the gift of the Spirit as an ἐξουσία to be bestowed, but entirely wrong in supposing that such a power could be obtained without an inward disposition of the heart, as anything might be bought for gold in external commerce. So De Wette, Apostelgeschichte, p. 124 (fourth edition), and he adds: “This is the fundamental error in ‘Simony,’ which is closely connected with unbelief in the power and meaning of the Spirit, and with materialism” (see also Alford in loco). (See further on “Simony,” Luckock, Footprints of the Apostles as traced by St. Luke, i., 208.) Probably Simon, after the manner of the time, cf. Acts 19:19, may already have purchased secrets from other masters of the magical arts, and thought that a similar purchase could now be effected.

18. And when Simon saw, &c.] Simon’s conduct now makes it clear how limited his faith had been. As he offered to buy the power, so we may be sure he meant to sell it. His faith, such as it was, had only sprung from his amazement.

he offered them money] From his name, all trafficking in sacred things has since been called Simony.

Acts 8:18. Θεασάμενος, having seen) again something new. Comp. Acts 8:13.—τῶν ἀποστόλων, of the apostles) It was therefore an apostolical gift. Philip the Evangelist had it not. Yet Ananias had it in the case of Paul: ch. Acts 9:17.—χρήματα, money) Thence has arisen the term Simony. The hire (of which “the workman is worthy”) is given and received, not for a spiritual gift, but for work or labour: Matthew 10:10.

Verse 18. - Now for and, A.V.; the laying for laying, A.V. Ver, 19. - My hands for hands, A.V. Would to God that spiritual powers in the Church had never been prostituted to base purposes of worldly gain, and that all the servants of Christ had shown themselves as superior to "filthy lucre" as Peter and Elisha were! But the particular offence called simony has but a very faint analogy to the act of Simon. Acts 8:18
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