on Acts 7 :51
Ye stiff-necked - Σκληροτραχηλοι. A metaphor taken from untoward oxen, who cannot be broken into the yoke; and whose strong necks cannot be bended to the right or the left.
Uncircumcised in heart and ears - This was a Jewish mode of speech, often used by the prophets. Circumcision was instituted, not only as a sign and seal of the covenant into which the Israelites entered with their Maker, but also as a type of that purity and holiness which the law of God requires; hence there was an excision of what was deemed not only superfluous but also injurious; and by this cutting off, the propensity to that crime which ruins the body, debases the mind, and was generally the forerunner of idolatry, was happily lessened. It would be easy to prove this, were not the subject too delicate. Where the spirit of disobedience was found, where the heart was prone to iniquity, and the ears impatient of reproof and counsel, the person is represented as uncircumcised in those parts, because devoted to iniquity, impatient of reproof, and refusing to obey. In Pirkey Eliezer, chap. 29, "Rabbi Seira said, There are five species of uncircumcision in the world; four in man, and one in trees. Those in man are the following: -
"1. Uncircumcision of the Ear. Behold, their Ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken, Jeremiah 6:10.
"2. The uncircumcision of the Lips. How shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised Lips? Exodus 6:12.
"3. Uncircumcision of Heart. If then their uncircumcised Hearts be humbled, Leviticus 26:41. Circumcise therefore the Foreskin of Your Heart, Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4. For all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the Heart, Jeremiah 9:26.
"4. The uncircumcision of the Flesh. Ye shall circumcise the Flesh of your Foreskin, etc., Genesis 17:11."
Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost -
1. Because they were uncircumcised in heart, they always resisted the influences of the Holy Spirit, bringing light and conviction to their minds; in consequence of which they became hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and neither repented at the preaching of John, nor credited the glad tidings told them by Christ and the apostles.
2. Because they were uncircumcised in ears, they would neither hear nor obey Moses, the prophets, Christ, nor the apostles.
As your fathers did, so do ye - They were disobedient children, of disobedient parents: in all their generations they had been disobedient and perverse. This whole people, as well as this text, are fearful proofs that the Holy Spirit, the almighty energy of the living God, may be resisted and rendered of none effect. This Spirit is not sent to stocks, stones, or machines, but to human beings endued with rational souls; therefore it is not to work on them with that irresistible energy which it must exert on inert matter, in order to conquer the vis inertiae or disposition to abide eternally in a motionless state, which is the state of all inanimate beings; but it works upon understanding, will, judgment, conscience, etc., in order to enlighten, convince, and persuade. If, after all, the understanding, the eye of the mind, refuses to behold the light; the will determines to remain obstinate; the judgment purposes to draw false inferences; and the conscience hardens itself against every check and remonstrance, (and all this is possible to a rational soul, which must be dealt with in a rational way), then the Spirit of God, being thus resisted, is grieved, and the sinner is left to reap the fruit of his doings. To force the man to see, feel, repent, believe, and be saved, would be to alter the essential principles of his creation and the nature of mind, and reduce him into the state of a machine, the vis inertiae of which was to be overcome and conducted by a certain quantum of physical force, superior to that resistance which would be the natural effect of the certain quantum of the vis inertiae possessed by the subject on and by which this agent was to operate. Now, man cannot be operated on in this way, because it is contrary to the laws of his creation and nature; nor can the Holy Ghost work on that as a machine which himself has made a free agent. Man therefore may, and generally does, resist the Holy Ghost; and the whole revelation of God bears unequivocal testimony to this most dreadful possibility, and most awful truth. It is trifling with the sacred text to say that resisting the Holy Ghost here means resisting the laws of Moses, the exhortations, threatenings, and promises of the prophets, etc. These, it is true, the uncircumcised ear may resist; but the uncircumcised heart is that alone to which the Spirit that gave the laws, exhortations, promises, etc;, speaks; and, as matter resists matter, so spirit resists spirit. These were not only uncircumcised in ear, but uncircumcised also in heart; and therefore they resisted the Holy Ghost, not only in his declarations and institutions, but also in his actual energetic operations upon their minds.
on Acts 7 :51
Ye stiff-necked - The discourse of Stephen has every appearance of having been interrupted by the clamors and opposition of the Sanhedrin. This verse has no immediate connection with what precedes, and appears to have been spoken in the midst of opposition and clamor. If we may conjecture in this case, it would seem that the Jews saw the drift of his argument; that they interrupted him; and that when the tumult had somewhat subsided, he addressed them in the language of this verse, showing them that they sustained a character precisely similar to their rebellious fathers. The word "stiff-necked" is often used in the Old Testament, Exodus 32:9; Exodus 33:3, Exodus 33:5; Exodus 34:9; Deuteronomy 9:6, Deuteronomy 9:13; Deuteronomy 10:16, etc. It is a figurative expression taken from oxen that are refractory, and that will not submit to be yoked. Applied to people, it means that they are stubborn, contumacious, and unwilling to submit to the restraints of Law.
Uncircumcised in heart - Circumcision was a sign of being a Jew - of acknowledging the authority of the laws of Moses. It was also emblematic of purity, and of submission to the Law of God. The expression "uncircumcised in heart" denotes those who were not willing to acknowledge that Law, and submit to it. They had hearts filled with vicious and unsubdued affections and desires.
And ears - That is, who are unwilling to "hear" what God says. Compare Leviticus 26:41; Jeremiah 9:26. See the notes on Romans 2:28-29.
Resist the Holy Ghost - You oppose the message which is brought to you by the authority of God and the inspiration of his Spirit. The message brought by Moses; by the prophets; by the Saviour; and by the apostles - all by the infallible direction of the Holy Spirit - they and their fathers opposed.
As your fathers did ... - As he had specified in Acts 7:27, Acts 7:35, Acts 7:39-43.
on Acts 7 :51