And they stoned Stephen, calling on God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
I. THE PRAYER OF STEPHEN
1. Stephen expected an immediate transfer of his soul, in the full possession of is powers and consciousness, from a state of earthly to a state of heavenly being. He understood its high relation to the Father of spirits; and expected from Him protection and provision for its unembodied existence.
2. The prayer of Stephen contained a plain, positive acknowledgment of the Saviour's proper Deity, as one with the Father, over all, God blessed for ever.
II. THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH THE PRAYER OF STEPHEN WAS OFFERED.
1. Saint Stephen was, beyond all controversy, a man of uprightness and integrity.
2. Will it be answered, "The integrity of Stephen remains unimpeached: he must, however, be ranked among those every-day characters, whose intellectual weakness is in some degree retrieved by the uprightness of their principles?" Such an apology will hardly serve the turn of those who impugn or deny the Divinity of our blessed Lord. For Stephen was a wise man, no less than a man of moral honesty and integrity. The knowledge and intellect of Jerusalem doubtless sat upon the seats of the Sanhedrin: yet they were cut to the heart with what they heard him declare, and could only answer "by gnashing upon him with their teeth." Now, it is not the part of wisdom to brave scorn, mockery, and death for an opinion unfounded in truth. Even Erasmus, one of the most amiable and learned men of modern times, who lived when the torch of the Reformation first shed its glorious light upon the benighted Church of Christ, confessed that, though he should know the truth to be on his side, be had not courage to become a martyr in its behalf. Was it, then, for one of Stephen's wisdom falsely to ascribe Godhead to Jesus Christ, when his life was endangered by the assertion, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God"?
3. I add, however, that Stephen was a partaker of knowledge more than human: he was a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost. "He had an unction from the Holy One, and he knew all things." No man can say that Jesus is the Christ, but by the Holy Ghost.
4. Once more: Stephen was a dying man. Whatever our previous sentiments may have been, yet when the things of this world are passing fast away, and the realities of eternal existence are opening upon our view, the mists of delusion are dissipated, and the true light of conviction usually flashes upon the soul.
III. THE DEATH BY WHICH THE PRAYER WAS FOLLOWED. Lessons:
1. It is a deduction, easily and naturally made from our review of the passage, that doctrinal religion is not a matter so unimportant as rational divines would persuade us to believe.
2. I add that faith in doctrines, unattended and unevidenced by practical religion, will serve rather to condemn than to save.
(R. P. Buddicom, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.