Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran on him with one accord,…
I. THE CHARACTER OF STEPHEN; or what manner of man he was: "full of the Holy Ghost." Now this Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of all "the Israel of God " (John 14:25, 26). What can be plainer, than that here is a Person distinct from either the Father and the Son, but intimately connected with both? And that He is not a principle, but a person. In this view, "the fruits of the Spirit" are to be always distinguished from the Spirit itself; the gifts are not to be confounded with the Giver; the Spirit of faith will make a man die contentedly; the Spirit of purity will make him die composedly; the Spirit of truth will make him die consistently; the Spirit of comfort will make him die happily; the Spirit of might will make him die triumphantly.
II. His CONFIDENCE; or what he did: "He looked up stedfastly into heaven." Not only looked towards, but into, as one who had "cast his anchor of hope within the veil," and knew, therefore, where again to find it.
1. "He looked up," we cannot doubt, with longing desire to be there.
2. With great indifference to all things here below. We would not tolerate neglect of your proper concerns; but the hour cometh when the possession of the whole world, will be of no avail; when its opinions can no longer influence, when its interests can no longer bind, when its friendships can no longer profit, and when its pleasures can no longer charm. If, then, you cannot "look up stedfastly into heaven" for comfort, ah! you have nowhere else to look!
3. In prayer. Stephen knew that a martyr's grace was needful to a martyrs constancy. "He prayed," therefore, for himself; but also for his murderers — "Holy hands must be lifted up without wrath or doubting."
III. His vision and encouragement; or what he saw —
1. "The glory of God, and Jesus." As "the glory of God" is seen most, resplendent in "the face (or person) of Jesus Christ," this was most probably the view with which his soul was blest. Somewhat of this, too, Esaias saw when at the surpassing brightness even the seraphim did "ceil their faces with their wings."
2. Jesus "standing at the right hand of God," amidst His shining hosts, sovereign and supreme, arising in order to be the first to receive the dying martyr's spirit; standing, as a priest "who standeth daily ministering," to offer up this "sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour"; standing, as a judge of masteries at the end of the goal or conflict, to hail the triumph of the candidate, and Himself confer the victor's crown!
IV. His AVOWAL; or, "what he said." "Behold, I see the heavens opened," etc. Here, then, St. Stephen gives a testimony to —
1. The Trinity; for he himself was "full of the Holy Ghent": he saw the "glory of God" the Father, and this manifested in Jesus standing at His right hand. He declared also —
2. Christ's humanity — "Son of Man." His faith and hope of admission into heaven: "I see heaven opened." Can there be a doubt but that there is "an open door, which no man can shut," proposed to us? "When Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, Thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers."
V. HIS ADORATION; or whom it was he worshipped. "They stoned Stephen, invocating and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" Jesus, therefore, was the object of his adoration; He was the only God he invocated, and at his last extremity of suffering and distress — a period when, if ever, men pray with the utmost seriousness, and always to Him whom they conceive to be the mightiest to help. Nor is it an immaterial circumstance that this invocation was made at the very time when Stephen "saw the glory of the Father, and was himself full of the Holy Ghost"; so that neither ignorance nor inadvertency nor imperfection could occasion it. And as if conscious, too, that He who could succour could equally forgive, he prayed again to Christ — "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."
(W. B. Williams, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,