But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria…
The traffic in Church matters and spiritual gifts.
I. FROM WHAT IT PROCEEDS — a covetous and ambitious heart. As Simon was for so long held in estimation and had bewitched the people, but was now displaced by the Christian evangelists, so he now resolved to regain his old status by money. Thus have all, who by impure means attempt to force themselves into the ministry, no other designs than to serve the idols of honour, sensuality, or mammon. On this account the Church has regarded Simon as the father of heresies and the type of sectarianism; for the mainspring of almost all founders of sects is love of power, which, united with arrogance, by its audacity and hypocrisy, bewitches the people cleaving to externals.
II. WHAT IT SUPPOSES. A bitter and unrighteous heart. His heart was full of gall, i.e., envy towards the apostles, and the preference given to their preaching above his arts; of unrighteousness, for notwithstanding his Christian profession he would be no follower of the Cross, but a proud miracle worker. He apparently attached himself to the apostles, but in heart was offended at them. Hence hypocrisy. He thought to bewitch these servants of Jesus with money as he had bewitched the people with magic, and himself with honour and mammon. Consequently unrighteousness towards the apostles, and a low estimation of their office and persons. Envy and jealousy, an earthly disposition and a low estimation of the ministry and its office bearers, mark even still the followers of Simon.
III. AT WHAT IT AIMS. Not grace, but power. He did not wish to save souls by the preaching of the gospel, but only to acquire for himself a name by deeds of supernatural might. In this are all like him who desire the office but not the grace: who have in view not the service of Christ, but personal dignity and prerogative; and those, too, who are covetous of gifts for the office — learning, eloquence, etc. — but dispense with the qualification of holiness (Luke 10:20).
IV. HOW IT ACTS. Simon offered money. Few offer actual money, now, for the ministerial office, but many employ means no less base. How often must this or that patron be gained over by crooked ways 1 How often is the office converted into a marriage portion!
V. WHAT IT ENTAILS. Simon along with his wicked designs retained a slavish fear of Divine punishment. He dreads damnation but will not have salvation. So all Simonists are slaves. They carry about them an evil conscience, and can have no true freedom in their ministry.
(G. V. Lechler, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: