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SEVEN DEACONS ARE APPOINTED-CHAP. IX.
lian Pe- Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Jerusalem.
adopt names for their children from the Greek, but from the He-
brew or Syriac languages. From these circumstances Mosheim
believes that these seven men were not intrusted with the care of
the whole of the poor at Jerusalem: for can any one suppose,
he continues, that the Hebrews would have consented that the
relief of their own widows and poor, should be thus committed to
the discretion of the Jews of the foreign class? The native Jews
would in this case have been liable to experience the same injus-
tice from the foreign brethren, as the latter had to complain of,
whilst the alms were at the disposal of the Hebrews; and in-
stead, therefore, of at once striking at the root of the evil which
they proposed to cure, the apostle would by such an arrange-
ment, have merely applied to it a very uncertain kind of remedy.
Besides, the indigenous Jews made no complaint against those
who had hitherto managed the concerns of the poor; and con-
sequently there could be no necessity for their dismissal from
office. It appears, therefore, clear beyond a doubt, that those
seven men were not invested with the care of the poor in ge-
neral, but were appointed merely as curators of the widows
and poor of the foreigners or Greeks; and that the others con-
tinued, under the guardianship of those, who prior to the ap-
pointment of the seven, were intrusted with the superintendance
and discretionary relief of the whole. Champ. Vitringa saw
the matter evidently in this light, as is plain from his work, De
Synagoga, lib. iii. part ii. cap. 5. p. 928. As to the reason which
caused the number of these men to be fixed at seven, I conceive
that it is to be found in the state of the Church at Jerusalem, at
the time of their appointment. The Christians in that city
were most likely divided into seven classes; the members of
each of these divisions having a separate place of assembly. It
was therefore deemed expedient that seven curators should be
appointed, in order that every division might be furnished with
an officer or superintendant of its own, whose immediate duty
it should be to take care that the widows and the poor of the
foreigners should come in for an equitable share of the alms
and benefactions, and to see that due relief was administered
according to the necessities of the different individuals (h).
Lightfoot (i), Dr. Clarke, and many others, have attempt-
ed to assimilate the roof the Jewish synagogue with the
Christian deacons, now appointed. There does not appear to
be any other resemblance than this, that one part of their duty
was common to both, the charge of the poor. That the office
of deacon among the Christians was more than this, has been
shewn both from Scripture, and its only right interpreters on
these matters, the early Fathers.
(a) Lightfoot's Works, vol. iii. p. 182. Pitman's edition. (b) Hæres. p. 50. sect. 4. ap. Whitby. (c) Ita ordo quidam in Ecclesia singularis jam tum impositione manuum institutus est. Actus quidem, ad quam instituti sunt, nihil aliud est, quam diakovεiv rpaπélais, et constituti sunt ἐπὶ ταύτης τῆς χρείας, quæ consistebat ἐν τῇ διακονία τῆ Kaoημερivй. Officium tamen non fuit mere civile, aut œconomicum, sed sacrum etiam, sive Ecclesiasticum. Mensæ enim Discipulorum tunc temporis communes, et sacræ etiam fuere; hoc est in communi convictu Sacramentum Eucharistiæ celebrabant, &c.-Pearsoni in Acta Apostol. Lectione, p. 53. Schoetgen has decided in favour of the opinion which is apparently best supported by Scripture, that the deacons were of two kinds, of tables, and of the word. The deaconship or ministry of tables ceased after the first dispersion, and Philip then resumed the deaconship of the word. Post diagnoρàv vero cessabat
Julian Pe- Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of An- Jerusalem. riod, 4745. tioch 31:
6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they
had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
διακονία τῆς τραπέζης, et Philippus postea resumebat διακονιὰν τῷ
Móys.--Schoetgen Hora Hebraica, vol. i. p. 428. (d) Euxapishσav-
τος τῇ προετῶτος οἳ καλούμενοι Διάκονοι διδόασιν ἑκάςω τῶν
πaρóvτшv μeraλabeiv. Justin Martyr, Apol. 2. p. 97. ed. Paris. (e)
Polycarp exhorts the deacons, that they conduct themselves blameless,
Ως θεῷ ἐν Χρισῷ Διάκονοι καὶ οὐκ ἀνθρώπων. (f) Δεῖ δὲ καὶ τῆς
διακόνους ὄντας μυτηρίων Χριςῦ Ἰησοῦ, κατὰ πάντα τρόπον
ἀρέσκειν. οὐ γὰρ βρωτῶν καὶ ποτῶν εἰσι διάκονοι, ἀλλ ̓ ἐκκλησίας
Θεοῦ ὑπηρέται. δέον οὖν αὐτῶν τὰ ἐγκλήματα φυλάττεσθαί ὡς πῦρ
φλέγον· Ap. Critici Sacri, vol. viii. annot Scipionis Gentilis, in
Philem. p. 846. Hughes, in his learned preface to Chrysostom on the
Priesthood, reads here μvýpov, but he prefers the present reading,
which is defended on the authority of the old interpreters of the pas-
sage, p. 61. Bishop Pearson reads μvsŋpiwv, Lectiones in Act,
p. 54. (g) Cyprian thus speaks concerning deacons-Meminisse autem
diaconi debent, quoniam Apostolos, id est, Episcopos et Præpositos
Dominus elegit: Diaconos autem post ascensum Domini in cœlos Apos-
toli sibi constituerunt, Episcopatus sui, et Ecclesiæ Ministros. In the
constitutions of Clemens are prayers for the deacon, in which these
words occurκαταξίωσον αὐτὸν εὐαρέσως λειτουργήσαντα τὴν
εγχειρισθεῖσαν αὐτῶν Διακονίαν ἀτρέπτως, ἀμέμπτως, ἀνεγκλήτως,
μείζονος ἀξιωθῆναι βαθμῷ. The deacons being accustomed to be ad-
vanced from the diaconate to the presbyteral office, which was thus
called a degree, from the passage 1 Tim. iii. 13.—oï kadŵç Diakový-
σαντες βαθμὸν ἑαυτοῖς καλὸν περιποιῶνται. (h) Mosheim on the
affairs of the Christians before Constantine.-Vidal's translation, vol. i.
p. 203, &c. (i) Lightfoot, vol. iii. p. 189. Pitman's edition; and Dr.
Clarke in loc. They appoint, says Lightfoot, quoting from Talmudical
authority, not less than three Parnasin; for if judgment about pecuniary
matters were judged by three, much more this matter which concerneth
life is to be managed by three: and in each, doctrine and wisdom were
required, that they might be able to discern, and give right judgment in
things both sacred and civil. The chazan, and wow shamash, were
also a sort of deacons. The first was the priest's deputy; and the last
was in some cases the deputy of this deputy, or the sub-deacon. See on
the subject of this note, Whitby, Hammond, Archbishop Potter's
treatise on Church Government, and their numerous references to the
Fathers, in addition to those here selected.
31 Lightfoot remarks on this verse, it is so constant an opi-
nion of the ancients, that the most impure sect of the Nicolai-
tans derived their name and filthy doctrines from the "Nicolas,"
here mentioned, (see Rev. ii. 15.) that so much as to distrust
the thing, would look like contradicting antiquity. But if it
were lawful in this matter freely to speak one's thoughts, I
should conjecture (for the honour of our Nicolas,) that the sect
might rather take its derivation from ¬» Necola, “let us eat
together;" those brutes animating one another to eat things
offered to idols. Like those in Isa. xxii. 13. an* nwa mbiɔɔ,
"Let us eat flesh and drink wine (a)."
As the Nicolas here spoken of was a deacon appointed by the apostles, and therefore must have been filled with the Holy Ghost, it is not probable he should have apostatized so far from the true faith, as to have become the founder of a sect whose doctrines were so disgusting in their nature, and so repugnant to truth, as to bring down the strong condemnation of our Lord in the book of Revelation already referred to.
(a) Lightfoot, vol. viii. p. 434.
Julian Period, 4746. Valgar Era, 33.
THE CHURCH INCREASES IN NUMBER-CHAP. IX.
The Church continues to increase in Number 32.
7 And the word of God increased; and the number of
3 The chronologers of the New Testament have generally
assigned the martyrdom of St. Stephen to the year 33, or 34, of
the Vulgar Era, from the supposition that our Lord was cruci-
fied in the year 33. In this arrangement the opinion of Benson
has been adopted, which places the death of Christ in the year
of the Vulgar Era 29, and of the Julian Period 4742. This
hypothesis will, I trust, be found consistent with the gene-
ral opinion respecting the date of the martyrdom of Stephen.
St. Luke not having given us in the Acts of the Apostles any
express data for the chronology of either of these great events,
several arguments seem to warrant and justify the dates here
affixed to the different portions of the Sacred History, from
the ascension, 29, to the martyrdom of St. Stephen, 33.
It will be observed that these dates are as follow:
The establishment of the Christian Church, by the miracle
at Pentecost, and first accession of converts..
The increasing prosperity of the Church, after the healing
of the cripple
The increase of the Church, in consequence of the death of
Ananias and Sapphira..
The increase of the Church, in consequence of the impri-
sonment and release of the Apostles.
Persecution and death of Stephen
It must be remembered that St. Luke, who was the author of the book of the Acts of the Apostles, was principally anxious to relate the chief circumstances of the life of St. Paul, and those actions of St. Peter, which were introductory to the preaching of the Gospel among the Gentiles. In many instances, therefore, he has not only studied brevity, but has passed over a variety of important journeys and circumstances familiarly alluded to in St. Paul's Epistles. He almost wholly omits what passed among the Jews after St. Paul's conversion-the dispersion of Christianity in the East-the lives and deaths of the apostles the foundation of the Church at Rome-St. Paul's journey into Arabia, and other events. It may therefore excite surprize, that the Evangelist, who is in general so eminently concise, should so frequently repeat similar expressions, unless we consider them as relating to distinct occurrences in the Church. We find for instance in Acts ii. 47. after the feast of Pentecost, the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.
Acts iv. 32. after the healing of the cripple-the multitude of them that "believed, were of one heart and of one soul."
In Acts v. 14. after the death of Ananias-" believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and, women."
And, after the release of the apostles, Acts vi. 7.-" the word of God increased, and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith;" all which expressions and different events seem to imply, that a much longer period than one year
Julian Pe- the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a Jerusalem. of the priests were obedient to the faith. great company
riod, 4746. Vulgar Æra, 33.
elapsed before the dispersion of the Church at Jerusalem and
the martyrdom of St. Stephen: and this supposition has in-
duced me to place the latter with the generality of commenta-
tors in the year 33.
I cannot but think that Daniel's celebrated prophecy of the
seventy weeks describes with much accuracy the gradual esta-
blishment of Christianity at Jerusalem, in the progressive man-
ner apparently related by St. Luke. Prideaux makes the seventy
weeks, or four hundred and ninety years, which were to elapse
between the going forth of the decree to build the city, and the
confirming of the covenant, to commence with the year of the
Julian Period 4256, which he considers as correspondent with
the year 458 before Christ, the first seven weeks terminating
with the complete establishment of the Jewish Church and
state, forty-nine years after. Threescore and two weeks were
then to elapse, after which Messiah was to be cut off, Dan. ix.
26. and this brings us to the year 4739 of the Julian Period, and
26 A.D. Thus far we are agreed.
There now remains, to conclude the prophecy, the one week, or seven years. In this week (see Dan. ix. 27.) the covenant is to be confirmed-" and in the midst of it he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease." Prideaux assigns to these seven days, or years, the following events.
4739 The first day of the week-the ministry of John begins
to confirm the covenant.
4742 The middle of the week-the ministry of Christ.
4746 End of the seventieth week-Christ is crucified.
Highly as I respect the authority of Prideaux, I cannot coin-
cide in this arrangement of events, by which he would interpret
this wonderful prophecy. Daniel appears to me to assert, in the
most express manner, that the sacrifice shall be caused to cease in
the midst of the week, and it could not possibly cease till our Lord,
the typified Sacrifice, was offered up. It is further declared,
that the covenant shall be confirmed through the whole week.
These considerations have induced me to give a more literal in-
terpretation of the passage, which seems to me also corroborat-
ed by other chronological calculations. I consider, then, the
prophecy to be fulfilled by the following arrangement of events,
which I would substitute for those given by Prideaux; and by
which his hypothesis is made to harmonize with that of Benson,
Hales, and others.
First day of the week-Christ's ministry begins,
and the covenant is confirmed.
In the half-part or middle of the week-the Mcs-
siah is cut off, and the sacrifice is caused to
cease by the death of Christ. He confirms his
covenant by sending down the Holy Spirit.
The covenant is further confirmed by the second
great effusion of the Holy Spirit.
The death of Ananias, and the rapid increase of
the Church, prove the truth of the covenant.
The covenant is more fully confirmed by the
complete establishment of the Church, the con-
version of the priests, &c. &c.
STEPHEN IS ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY-CHAP. IX.
Valgar Era, Stephen having boldly asserted the Messiahship of Christ, is accused of Blasphemy before the Sanhedrim.
8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.
9 Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines and Cyrenians,
The last year of the seventy weeks begins, and
the covenant is ratified by the blood of the first
martyr. Then, and then only, the Jews began
to fill up the measure of the iniquities of their
fathers, by resisting the testimony of the Holy
Ghost. The seventy weeks having now ex-
pired, they are permitted to persecute the
Church of Christ even unto death, drawing
down upon them by their abominations and
cruelty, the destruction of their city and sanc-
tuary, the desolation predicted both by our Lord
and his prophets.
In addition to the arguments already given in favour of the
present arrangement, which makes nearly four years intervene
between the death of Christ and the martyrdom of Stephen, I
must add the authority of Tacitus, who states that after the
death of Christ his religion was for a time suppressed, but that
it afterwards broke out, not only in Judea, but through the
whole world. This latter clause seems to me evidently to refer
to the first persecution of the disciples, when they were obliged
to fly from Jerusalem, and carried with them the Gospel in
every direction. Some time must have elapsed before the
Church could have been so fully established, as to have become
obnoxious to the Jewish rulers, its founders being the most
despised and humble of men. The passage from Tacitus refers
to the persecution of the Christians by Nero-Quos, vulgus
Christianos appellabat. Auctor nominis ejus Christus, qui Ti-
berio imperitante, per Procuratorem Pontium Pilatum, supplicio
affectus erat. Repressaque in præsens, exitiabilis superstitio
rursus erumpebat, non modo per Judeam, originem ejus mali,
sed per urbem etiam, quo, &c.
33 Various opinions have been entertained respecting the synagogue of the Libertines here mentioned. Mr. Horne supposes, and so likewise do Bishop Marsh and Michaelis, that the word Abeprivo is evidently the same as the Latin Libertini. Whatever meaning we affix to this word, says Bishop Marsh, (for it is variously explained,) whether we understand emancipated slaves, or the sons of emancipated slaves, they must have been the slaves, or the sons of slaves, to Roman masters; otherwise the Latin word Libertini would not apply to them. That among persons of this description there were many at Rome, who professed the Jewish religion, whether slaves of Jewish origin, or proselytes after manumission, is nothing very extraordinary. But that they should have been so numerous at Jerusalem as to have a synagogue in that city, built for their particular use, appears at least to be more than might be expected. Some commentators, therefore, have supposed that the term in question, instead of denoting emancipated Roman slaves, or the sons