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The hypocrisy of Ananias



and his wife Sapphira.

The hypocrisy of Ananias and his wife Sapphira; and their awful death, 1-11. The apostles work many miracles, and the church of God is increased, 12-16. The high-priest and the sadducees being incensed The angel of God delivers them, and comagainst the apostles, seize and put them in prison, 17, 18. mands them to go to the temple, and proclaim the gospel, 19, 20. The high-priest having gathered the council together in the morning, sends to the prison to have the apostles brought before him, 21. The officers return, and report that they found the prison shut, and the watch set, but that the men had got out, 22, 23. A The messenger arrives in the meanwhile, and says, that the apostles are preaching in the temple, 24, 25. captain and officers go and bring them before the council, who expostulate with them, 26-28. The apostles defend themselves, and charge the council with the murder of Christ; and assert his resurrection from the dead and ascension to the right hand of God, 29-32. The council is confounded, and purpose to slay the apostles, 33. Gamaliel gives them seasonable and prudent advice, 34-39. The council agree to it, but, before they discharge the apostles, beat them, and command them not to teach in the name of Jesus, 40. They depart rejoicing in their persecution, and continue to preach Jesus Christ, 41, 42.

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Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

Ch. 4. 37.- Numb. 30. 2. Deut. 29. 21. Eccles. 5. 4.

NOTES ON CHAP. V. Verse 1. But a certain man named Ananias] Of these unhappy people we have no farther account than what is recorded here. In reference to birth, connexions, &c. their names are written in the dust. The import of his name, chananiyah, the grace or mercy of the Lord, agrees very ill with his conduct.

Luke 22. 3.

d Or, to deceive, ver. 9.

wλnpoe, which we translate to fill, Kypke has shewed by many examples, to signify, to instigate, excite, impel, &c. and it was a common belief, as well among the heathens as among the Jews and Christians, that when a man did evil, he was excited to it by the influence and malice of an evil spirit. It is strange that, by the general consent of mankind, sin against God has been ever considered so perfectly unna

unless impelled to it by the agency of the Devil. The words of St. Peter here, prove that such an agency is not fictitious: if there had been no Devil, as some wish, and perhaps feel it their interest to believe; or if this Devil had no influence on the souls of men, Peter, under the agency of the Holy Spirit, would not have expressed himself in this way; for if the thing were not so, it would have been the most direct means to lead the disciples to form false opinions, or to confirm them in old and absurd prejudices.

Verse 2. Kept back part of the price] Ananias and Sap-tural, and so evil in itself, that no man would commit it, phira were evidently persons who professed faith in Christ, with the rest of the disciples. While all were making sacrifices for the present necessity, they came forward among the rest, pretending to bring all the money they had got for a possession, xμa (of what kind we know not) which they had sold. A part of this price, however, they kept back, not being willing to trust entirely to the bounty of Providence, as the others did; thinking, probably, that as the whole was their own, they had a right to do with it as they pleased; and so they had; they were under no necessity to sell their possession: but the act of selling it for the ostensible purpose of bringing it into the common stock, left them no farther control over it, nor property in it: and their pretence, that the money which they brought, was the whole produce of the sale, was a direct lie in itself, and an attempt to deceive the Holy Spirit, under whose influence they pretended to act. This constituted the iniquity of their sin.

Verse 3. Why hath Satan filled thine heart] The verb

Το lie to the Holy Ghost] Πσεύσασθαι το Πνεύμα το Aysor to deceive the Holy Spirit. Every lie is told with the intention to deceive, and they wished to deceive the apostles, and in effect, that Holy Spirit under whose influence they professed to act. Lying against the Holy Ghost is in the next verse said to be lying against God: therefore, the Holy Ghost is GOD.

Το keep back part of the price] Νοσφίσασθαι από της τιμής. The verb νοσφιζειν, νοσφίζεσθαι, is used by the Greek writers

Ananias and Sapphira,

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cir. CCII. 2.



4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

5 And Ananias hearing these words "fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. 7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.

his wife, struck dead.

A. D. cir. 30.
An. Olymp.

cir. CCIL. 2.

8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell A. M.cir.4031. me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. 9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.



10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.

11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

Ver. 10, 11.- John 19. 40. ver. 3. Matt. 4.7.

a Ver. 5. ver. 5. ch. 2. 43. & 19. 17.

to signify purloining part of the public money, peculation. The word is used here with great propriety, as the money for which the estate was sold, was public property; as it was for this purpose alone, that the sale was made.

Verse 4. Whiles it remained, was it not thine own?] See the note on ver. 2. and see that also on chap. ii. 44.

of the salvation of Ananias and Sapphira has not been a little agitated; and most seem inclined to hope that though their sin was punished by this awful display of the divine judg ment, that mercy was extended to their souls. For my own part I think their sin was what the apostle, 1 John v. 16. calls a sin unto death: a sin which must be punished with

Verse 5. Fell down, and gave up the ghost] Isowy, E-temporal death, or the death of the body, while mercy was εve falling down, he expired, breathed his last; “ Gave up || extended to the soul. It was right in this infant state of the the ghost" is a very improper translation here. See the notes on Gen. xxv. 8. and on Matt. xxvii. 50. Two things may be remarked here: 1. That the sin of this person was of no ordinary magnitude, else God would not have visited it with so signal a punishment. 2. That Peter must have had the power to discern the state of the heart, else he had not known || the perfidy of Ananias. This power commonly called the discernment of spirits, the apostles had as a particular gift, not probably, always, but at select times; when God saw it necessary for the good of his church.

Verse 6. The young men arose] Some of the stout young men, belonging to the disciples, then present; who were the fittest to undertake a work of this kind, which required considerable bodily exertion.

Buried him.] This was on the same day in which he died. It was a clear case, that he was dead: and dead by a judgment of God, that would not be revoked. As therefore it was no case of suspended animation, there was no reason to delay the burial.

Verse 9. To tempt the Spirit of the Lord?] So, the Holy Ghost, God, and the Spirit of the Lord, are the same person. Verse 10. Yielded up the ghost] See ver. 5. It was not by Peter's words, nor through Peter's prayers, nor through shame, nor through remorse, that this guilty pair died, but by an immediate judgment of God. The question

church to shew God's displeasure against deceit, fraud, and hypocrisy: had this guilty pair been permitted to live after they had done this evil, this long-suffering would have been infallibly abused by others; and instead of leading them who had sinned, to repentance, might have led them to hardness of heart, by causing them to presume on the mercy of God. That hypocrisy may be afraid to shew her face, God makes these two an example of his justice; but because they had not the ordinary respite, we may presume that God extended mercy to them, though cut off almost in the act of sin. Their case however, cannot become a precedent, allowing them to have received mercy: because those who have seen in this case the severity of God, must expect much sorer punishment, if with such an example before their eyes, they should presume on the mercy of their Maker: this would be doing evil that good might come; and the perdition of such would be just.

Verse 11. Great fear came upon all the church] This judgment answered the end for which it was inflicted; a deeply religious fear occupied every mind; and hypocrisy and deception were banished from this holy assembly. On the word Church, see the observations at the end of Matt. xvi. it has been properly observed that we have in this place, a native specimen of a New Testament church: 1. Called by the gospel; 2. grafted into Christ by baptism; 3. animated

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by love; 4. united by all kinds of fellowship; 5. and disciplined by the exemplary punishment of hypocrites. See Dodd. Verse 12. By the hands of the apostles] This verse should be read with the 15th to which it properly belongs. Solomon's porch.] See the note on John x. 23.

Verse 13. And of the rest durst no man join himself to
them; but the people magnified them:

Verse 14. And believers were the more added to the
Lord, both men and women.

Verse 12. (last clause) And they were all with one ac-
cord in Solomon's porch.

Verse 12. (first clause) And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; Verse 15. Insomuch that they brought forth the sick in

to the streets and laid them on beds and couches, &c. &c. How these different verses, and clauses of verses got so intermingled and confounded as they are now in our common text, I cannot tell; but the above will appear at once to be the na fural order in which they should be placed.

Verse 13. And of the rest, durst no man join himself to them] Who were these called the rest, Twy 201πwy? Dr. Lightfoot thinks the 120 are intended, of which he supposes Ananias to have been one; who all seeing such wonders wrought by the apostles, were afraid to associate themselves with them in any way of equality; as they saw, that God put peculiar honour upon them. Calmet more rationally observes, that the Jewish nation was then divided into many different sects, who entertained widely different opinions on various articles. The apostles adopted none of these jarring sentiments, and none of the different sects dared to join them-miraculous influence here, that others profess to see. The selves to them; neither Pharisees, Sadducees, nor Herodians, as such, were found in this simple holy church. The people felt the force and power of the apostles' doctrine, and magnified them; no more attending to the teaching of the others: the apostles taught them as men having authority, and not as the scribes and pharisees. This irritated the high-priest and his sadducean council, and led them to adopt the measures mentioned below, ver. 17.

That-the shadow of Peter passing by] I cannot see all the

people who had seen the miracles wrought by the apostles pressed with their sick, to share the healing benefit: as there must have been many diseased people, it is not likely that the apostles who generally addressed such persons, prayed and used imposition of hands, could reach all those that were brought to them, as fast as the solicitude of their friends could wish. As therefore they could not get Peter or the other apostles, personally to all their sick, they thought if they placed them on that side of the way, where the shadow was projected, (the sun probably now declining and consequently the shadow lengthening,) they should be healed by the shadow of the man passing over them, in whose person such miraculous powers were lodged. But it does not appear that the persons who thus thought and acted, were of the number of those converts already made to the faith of Christ : nor does it appear that any person was healed in this way. The sacred penman simply relates the impression made on the peoples' minds; and how they acted in consequence of this impression. A popish writer assuming that the shadow of Peter, actually cured all on which it was projected, argues from this precarious principle in favour of the wonderful efficacy of relics! for says he, "if the shadow of a saint can do Verse 11. And great fear came upon all the church, and so much, how much more may his bones or any thing that upon as many as heard these things. was in contact with his person perform?" Now, before

Verse 14. And believers were the more added to the Lord Believers, 1. Those who credited the Divine mission of Christ. 2. That he was the Messiah. 3. That he died for their sins. 4. That he rose again. 5. That he ascended into heaven. 6. That he sent down the gift of the Holy Spirit. 7. That he ever appeared in the presence of God for them. 8. That it was he who gives repentance and remission of sins. And 9. He by whom the world is to be judged. These were simple articles, of the truth of which they had the fullest evidence.

Verse 15. Insomuch that they brought forth the sick] This verse is a continuation of the subject begun in the 12th. The following is the order in which all these verses should be read from the 11th to the 15th.

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The sick are brought from distant

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16 There came also a multitude spirits: and they were healed An. Olymp. out of the cities round about unto one.

cir. CCII. 2.

a sick folks, Jerusalem, bringing and them which were vexed with unclean

a Mark 16. 17, 18. John 14. 12.

this conclusion can be valid, it must be proved, 1. that the shadow of Peter did actually cure the sick; 2. that this was a virtue common to all the apostles; 3. that all eminent saints possess the same virtue; 4. that the bones, &c. of the dead, possess the same virtue with the shadow of the living; 5. that those whom they term saints, were actually such; 6. that miracles of healing have been wrought by their relics; 7. that touching these relics, as necessarily produces the miraculous healing, as they suppose the shadow of Peter to have done. I think there is not sufficient evidence here that Peter's shadow healed any one, though the people thought it could but allowing that it did, no evidence can be drawn from this, that any virtue is resident in the relics of reputed or real saints, by which miraculous influence may be conveyed. It was only in rare cases that God enabled even an apostle, to work a miracle.


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17 Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is

Ch. 4. 1, 2, 6.

this innocent word, and then apply it to all those who can neither credit her transubstantiation, depend on her purgatory, nor worship her relics. A heretic in her acceptation, is one who is not a papist, and because not a papist, utterly out of the way, and out of the possibility of being saved. These persons should recollect that by a then persecuting brother, St. Paul, all the apostles, and the whole church of Christ, were termed Natwpawv aipeσis the heresy of the Nazarenes, chap. xxiv. 5. and it was after the way which the persecuting Jews called heresy, that St. Paul and the rest of the apostles, worshipped the God of their fathers, Ib. ver. 14. and it was according to the strictest HERESY in the Jewish church, axpıbesarny aipeow, that St. Paul lived, before his conversion, chap. xxvi. 5. and we find from chap. xxviii. 22. that the whole church of Christ was termed this heresy, Tautrs aipsoews, chap. xxviii. 22. and this by persons who intended no reproach, but

After the words might overshadow some of them, the Vul-wished simply to distinguish the Christians from scribes, phagate adds, et liberarentur ab infirmitatibus suis, a Greck MS. risees, sadducees, &c. Heresy therefore in its first accepta(E.) has nearly the same words, xaι puodwσiv año maσns arbe- tion, signifies simply a choice: afterwards it was applied to velas ns Eixov, and that they might be freed from all the infir-designate all those persons who made the same choice, and mities which they had: a few other MSS. agree in the main with this reading.

Verse 16. Sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits] Here it is evident that sick people are distinguished from those who were vered with unclean spirits; and therefore they were not one and the same thing. The same distinction is made Matt. iv. 24. x. 1. Mark i. 32, 34. xvi. 17, 18. and Luke iv. 40, 41. and vii. 21.

hence the word sect and it, became synonymous: in process of time it was applied to those professing Christianity, who made in some cases, a different choice as to some article of faith, or form of worship, from those which had obtained in that part of the church, with which they had been before connected. The majority from whom they became thus separated, spoke evil of them, and treated them ill, because they presumed to choose for themselves on the foundation of the Holy Scriptures; and because they would take nothing for the truth of God, that was not accredited from heaven. Thus, when the people now called protestants, began to examine their creed according to the Holy Scriptures, and in consequence of this examination, left out auricular confession,

Verse 17. The high-priest-and-the sect of the sadducees] AipEois Twv σaddouxaiwy, of the heresy of the sadducees. In this place as well as in several others the word aigers heresy, has no evil meaning in itself; it is a word of distinction, and may receive either a good or bad colouring from the persons or opinions designated by it. It signifies a sect or party whe-indulgences, the priests' power to forgive sins, adoration of ther good or bad, distinguished from any other sect. Aipeois saints, angels, and relics; purgatory, and the doctrine of heresy comes from aipɛw I choose, and was anciently applied transubstantiation, because they could not find them in the to the different sects of the heathen philosophers, the mem- word of God; the papists called them heretics, by which bers of each sect, having chosen their own in preference to all they meant in opposition to the meaning of the word, persons the others. It has been applied among ecclesiastical writers, holding damnable errors; and as such, they persecuted, burnt in the same way; when a man chooses one party of Christians and destroyed them wherever they had power. Now be in preference to others, to be his companions in the way of it known to these persecutors, that the protestants still salvation: and he chooses them and their creed and Christian choose to reject opinions and practices which they know to discipline, because he believes the whole to be more consistent be unscriptural, absurd and superstitious; and which they with the oracles of God, than any of the rest. The church || have a thousand times demonstrated to be such: and on this of Rome has thought proper to attach a very bad meaning to ground, may they still be HERETICS!

The apostles are imprisoned:

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and told,

a council is summoned about them.

A.M.cir.4034. the sect of the Sadducees,) and were || them not in the prison, they returned,
An. Olymp. filled with indignation,
cir. CCII. 2. 18 And laid their hands on the apos-
tles, and put them in the common prison.
19 But the angel of the Lord by night opened
the prison doors, and brought them forth, and

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23 Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within.

24 Now when the high priest and 'the captain

20 Go, stand and speak in the temple to the of the temple and the chief priests heard these people all the words of this life.

things, they doubted of them whereunto this

21 And when they heard that, they entered in-would grow.
to the temple early in the morning, and taught.
But the high priest came, and they that were
with him, and called the council together, and
all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent
to the prison to have them brought.

25 Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. 26 Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared

22 But when the officers came, and found the people, lest they should have been stoned.

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Were filled with indignation] Zŋhov with zeal. Zyλos from Lew to be hot, and λa or av very much, signifies a vehement affection or disposition of the mind, which according to its object, is either good or bad; laudable or blameable. || Its meaning in this place is easily discerned; and not improperly translated indignation, in our version. We need not || be surprised that the sadducees were filled with indignation, because the apostles proclaimed the resurrection of Christ; and through that, the general resurrection, which was diametrically opposed to their doctrine; for they denied the possibility of a resurrection, and believed not in the being of either angel or spirit; nor did they allow of the existence of & spiritual world. See on chap. iv. 2.

Verse 18. Put them in the common prison.] It being too late in the evening to bring them to a hearing. To this verse the Codex Beza adds xai ɛtopevŷn is exactos, eis ta dia, and each of them went to his own house.

Verse 19. But the angel of the Lord-opened the prison doors] This was done, 1. to increase the confidence of the apostles, by shewing them that they were under the continual care of God; and 2. to shew the Jewish rulers that they were fighting against Him while persecuting his followers, and attempting to prevent them from preaching the gospel. This was another warning graciously given them by a good and merciful God, that they might repent, and so escape the coming wrath.

Verse 20. All the words of this life.] All the doctrines of life eternal, founded on the word, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. This is another periphrasis for gospel. Go to the temple, the most public place: and speak to the people, who come there to worship according to the law, the words of

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this life; the whole doctrine of salvation from sin and death; and shew that the law is fulfilled in the sacrifice of Jesus: and that by his resurrection, he has brought life and immortality to light.

Verse 21. Called the council together] Euvedplov, the sanhedrin, all the senate; rny ynpovoia the elders, or what we would call the aldermen. How these differed from the peσCUTεpiov presbytery, if they did differ, is not now known.

Verse 23. The prison truly found we shut] All the doors were properly bolted and the keepers at their post; but when we had opened, for it appears they were alone in possession of the keys; how much must this have increased their astonishment when they found that the doors were not broken open, the guards properly posted, and every thing as they left it; for they themselves had put the apostles in prison, but when they had opened, there was no man within!

Verse 24. They doubted of them whereunto this would grow.] They did not know what to think of the apostles, whether they had saved themselves by magic; or whether they were delivered by a real miracle; and they were at a loss to tell what the issue of these things would be.

Verse 25. Then came one and told them] While they were in the perplexity mentioned above, a messenger surprized them with the information, that the very men whom they had imprisoned the preceding night, were standing in the temple, and teaching the people!.

Verse 26. Brought them without violence] On receiving the information mentioned above, proper officers were sent to seize and bring them before the council. The officers on reaching the temple, found the multitude gladly receiving the doctrine of the apostles; and so intent on hearing all the

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