Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65], at sacred-texts.com
act 8:1At that time there was great persecution against the Church - Their adversaries having tasted blood, were the more eager. And they were all dispersed - Not all the Church: if so, who would have remained for the apostles to teach, or Saul to persecute? But all the teachers except the apostles, who, though in the most danger, stayed with the flock.
act 8:2Devout men - Who feared God more than persecution. And yet were they not of little faith? Else they would not have made so great lamentation.
act 8:3Saul made havoc of the Church - Like some furious beast of prey. So the Greek word properly signifies. Men and women - Regarding neither age nor sex.
act 8:4Therefore they that were dispersed went every where - These very words are reassumed, after as it were a long parenthesis, Act 11:19 and the thread of the story continued.
act 8:5Stephen - Being taken away, Philip, his next colleague, (not the apostle,) rises in his place.
act 8:9A certain man - using magic - So there was such a thing as witchcraft once! In Asia at least, if not in Europe or America.
act 8:12But when they believed - What Philip preached, then they saw and felt the real power of God, and submitted thereto.
act 8:13And Simon believed - That is, was convinced of the truth.
act 8:14And the apostles hearing that Samaria - The inhabitants of that country, had received the word of God - By faith, sent Peter and John - He that sends must be either superior, or at least equal, to him that is sent. It follows that the college of the apostles was equal if not superior to Peter.
act 8:15The Holy Ghost - In his miraculous gifts? Or his sanctifying graces? Probably in both.
act 8:18Simon offered them money - And hence the procuring any ministerial function, or ecclesiastical benefice by money, is termed Simony.
act 8:21Thou hast neither part - By purchase, nor lot - Given gratis, in this matter - This gift of God. For thy heart is not right before God - Probably St. Peter discerned this long before he had declared it; although it does not appear that God gave to any of the apostles a universal power of discerning the hearts of all they conversed with; any more than a universal power of healing all the sick they came near. This we are sure St. Paul had not; though he was not inferior to the chief of the apostles. Otherwise he would not have suffered the illness of Epaphroditus to have brought him so near to death, Phi 2:25-27; nor have left so useful a fellow labourer as Trophimus sick at Miletus, Ti2 4:20.
act 8:22Repent - if perhaps the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee - Without all doubt if he had repented, he would have been forgiven. The doubt was, whether he would repent. Thou art in the gall of bitterness - In the highest degree of wickedness, which is bitterness, that is, misery to the soul; and in the bond of iniquity - Fast bound therewith.
act 8:26The way which is desert - There were two ways from Jerusalem to Gaza, one desert, the other through a more populous country.
act 8:27An eunuch - Chief officers were anciently called eunuchs, though not always literally such; because such used to be chief ministers in the eastern courts. Candace, queen of the Ethiopians - So all the queens of Ethiopia were called.
act 8:28Sitting in his chariot, he read the Prophet Isaiah - God meeteth those that remember him in his ways. It is good to read, hear, seek information even in a journey. Why should we not redeem all our time?
act 8:30And Philip running to him, said, Understandest thou what thou readest? - He did not begin about the weather, news, or the like. In speaking for God, we may frequently come to the point at once, without circumlocution.
act 8:31He desired Philip to come up and sit with him - Such was his modesty, and thirst after instruction.
act 8:32The portion of Scripture - By reading that very chapter, Isaiah 53, many Jews, yea, and atheists, have been converted. Some of them history records. God knoweth them all. Isa 53:7
act 8:33In his humiliation his judgment was taken away - That is, when he was a man, he had no justice shown him. To take away a person's judgment, is a proverbial phrase for oppressing him. And who shall declare, or count his generation - That is, who can number his seed, Isa 53:10; which he hath purchased by laying down his life?
act 8:36And as they went on the way they came to a certain water - Thus, even the circumstances of the journey were under the direction of God. The kingdom of God suits itself to external circumstances, without any violence, as air yields to all bodies, and yet pervades all. What hindereth me to be baptized? - Probably he had been circumcised: otherwise Cornelius would not have been the first fruits of the Gentiles.
act 8:38And they both went down - Out of the chariot. It does not follow that he was baptized by immersion. The text neither affirms nor intimates any thing concerning it.
act 8:39The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip - Carried him away with a miraculous swiftness, without any action or labour of his own. This had befallen several of the prophets.
act 8:40But Philip was found at Azotus - Probably none saw him, from his leaving the eunuch, till he was there.