WHEN the number of the disciples had considerably increased, some who had been converted from among the Greeks, complained because their widows were not so well cared for as the widows among the Hebrew converts. So the apostles called a meeting of the disciples, and when they had assembled, said, " It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables." So the people, by the advice of the apostles, chose out seven men noted for wisdom and godliness, and appointed them to look after the wants of the needy. Before entering upon the duties of their office, these men were solemnly ordained by prayer and the laying on of hands. By this means the apostles were left free to go on with their work of preaching the gospel to the people.

Through the labors of the apostles the number of the disciples was greatly increased in Jerusalem, and among those who believed was a large company of priests, who also became obedient to all that was required of them by the apostles.

Stephen, also, who was one of the seven that were ordained to care for the poor, was a man full of faith and of the Spirit of God, and did great wonders and miracles among the people. Then certain men from noted synagogues disputed with Stephen; but the spirit and wisdom, which God granted to this holy man they were powerless to resist. So they took bad men, and having secretly instructed them what to say, brought them forward to testify that they had heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God. When they had in this way stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, they came upon Stephen, and took him before the council, where they brought false witnesses against him. These false witnesses testified, saying, "This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us."

While Stephen was listening to these false accusations, and all the council were gazing steadily at him, the glory of God rested on him, and his face appeared like that of an angel.  When the witnesses had given in their testimony, the high priest said, addressing Stephen, "Are these things so"  Stephen then made reply as follows:

"Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken. The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran [Haran], and said unto him, ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee.' Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Charran [Haran]; and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.  And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child. And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land, and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil, four hundred years. And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will judge, said God; and after that shall they come forth,

and serve me in this place.

"And he gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs. And the patriarchs, moved with jealousy against Joseph, sold him into Egypt: and God was with him, and delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.

"Now there was a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction; and our fathers found no sustenance. But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent forth our fathers the first time. And at the second time, Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.

"Then Joseph sent, and called to him Jacob his father, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls. And Jacob went down into Egypt; and he died, himself, and our fathers ; and they were carried over unto Shechem, and laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Hamor in Shechem."






IN our last lesson we left Stephen addressing the Sanhedrim. Beginning with Abraham, he had traced the history of God's people down to the burial of Jacob. In this lesson the remainder of his discourse is given. He continues as follows:- "But when the time of promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, till another king arose, who knew not Joseph. The same dealt subtilely with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.

In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair; and he was nourished three months in his father's house: and when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.

And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel.

And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, smiting the Egyptian; for he supposed that his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not. And the next day he showed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, 'Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?' But he that did his neighbor wrong thrust him away, saying, 'Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? Wilt thou kill me, as thou didst the Egyptian yesterday?' Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Midian, where he begat two sons.

"And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight; and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.

Then said the Lord to him, Put of thy shoes from thy feet; for the place where thou standest is holy ground. I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt.'

"This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? The same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush. He brought them out, after that he had showed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years.

"This is that Moses who said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.' This is he that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel that spake to him in the Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; who received living oracles to give unto us; to whom our fathers would not be obedient, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again to Egypt, saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us; for as for this Moses, who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.' And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

"Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets:-

Did ye offer unto me slain beasts and sacrifices Forty years in the wilderness,

O house of Israel?

And ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch,

And the star of the god Rephan,

The figures which ye made to worship them;

And I will carry you away beyond Babylon.'

"Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen. Which also our fathers that came after, brought in with Joshua into the possession of the nations that God thrust out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David; who found favor before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. But Solomon built him a house. Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,-

'The heaven is my throne, And the earth the footstool of my feet:

What manner of house will ye build me? saith the


Or what is the place of my rest?

Did not my hand make all these things?'

"Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers; ye who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it."

When the Jewish council heard these cutting words, they were so angry at Stephen that they gnashed their teeth at him; but he, looking upward, had a vision of heaven, and said, "I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God."

Then his enraged accusers stopped their ears, and with loud vociferations ran upon him, thrust him out of the city, and stoned him to death. As Stephen was receiving this cruel treatment, he kneeled down, prayed that God would be merciful to his murderers, and having said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," fell asleep.