Disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem. The word
of God increased, and many of the priests were obedient unto the faith. Stephen, full of faith, was doing great wonders and miracles among the people. Many were angry; for the priests were turning from their traditions, and from the sacrifices and offerings, and were accepting Jesus as the great sacrifice. Stephen, with power from on high, reproved the priests and elders, and exalted Jesus before them. They could not withstand the wisdom and power by which he spoke, and as they found that they could prevail nothing against him, they hired men to falsely swear that they had heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God. They stirred up the people, and took Stephen, and, through false witnesses, accused him of speaking against the temple and the law. They testified that they had heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth would destroy the customs which Moses gave them.
All who sat in judgment against Stephen saw the light of the glory of God in his countenance. His countenance was lighted up like the face of an angel. He stood up full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and, beginning at the prophets, he brought them down to the advent of Jesus, his crucifixion, his resurrection and ascension, and showed them that the Lord dwelt not in temples made with hands. They worshiped the temple. Anything spoken against the temple filled them with greater indignation than if spoken against God. The spirit of Stephen was stirred with heavenly indignation as he cried out against them for being wicked, and uncircumcised in heart. Ye do always resist the Holy Spirit. They observed the outward ordinances, while their hearts were corrupt, and full of deadly evil. Stephen referred them to the cruelty of their fathers in persecuting the prophets, saying, Ye have slain them which showed before the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers.
The chief priests and the rulers were enraged as the plain, cutting truths were spoken; and they rushed upon Stephen. The light of heaven shone upon him, and as he looked up steadfastly into heaven, a vision of God's glory was given him, and angels hovered around him. He cried out, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. The people would not hear him. They cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him. And Stephen kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.
I saw that Stephen was a mighty man of God, especially raised up to fill an important place in the church. Satan exulted as he was stoned to death; for he knew that the disciples would greatly feel his loss. But Satan's triumph was short; for there was one standing in that company, witnessing the death of Stephen, to whom Jesus was to reveal himself. Although he took no part in casting the stones at Stephen, yet he consented to his death. Saul was zealous in persecuting the church of God, hunting them, seizing them in their houses, and delivering them to those who would slay them. Satan was using Saul effectually. But God can break the Devil's power, and set free those who are led captive by him. Saul was a learned man, and Satan was triumphantly employing his talents to help carry out his rebellion against the Son of God, and those who believed in him. But Jesus selected Saul as a chosen vessel to preach his name, to strengthen the disciples in their work, and more than fill the place of Stephen. Saul was greatly esteemed by the Jews. His zeal and his learning pleased them, and terrified many of the disciples.
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