Then the High Priest asked him, "Are these statements true?"
The reply of Stephen was, "Sirs--brethren and fathers--listen to me. God Most Glorious appeared to our forefather Abraham when he was living in Mesopotamia, before he settled in Haran,
and said to him, "`Leave your country and your relatives, and go into whatever land I point out to you.'
"Thereupon he left Chaldaea and settled in Haran till after the death of his father, when God caused him to remove into this country where you now live.
But he gave him no inheritance in it, no, not a single square yard of ground. And yet He promised to bestow the land as a permanent possession on him and his posterity after him--and promised this at a time when Abraham was childless.
And God declared that Abraham's posterity should for four hundred years make their home in a country not their own, and be reduced to slavery and be oppressed.
"`And the nation, whichever it is, that enslaves them, I will judge,' said God; `and afterwards they shall come out, and they shall worship Me in this place.'
"Then He gave him the Covenant of circumcision, and under this Covenant he became the father of Isaac--whom he circumcised on the eighth day. Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve Patriarchs.
"The Patriarchs were jealous of Joseph and sold him into slavery in Egypt. But God was with him
and delivered him from all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him governor over Egypt and all the royal household.
But there came a famine throughout the whole of Egypt and Canaan--and great distress--so that our forefathers could find no food.
When, however, Jacob heard that there was wheat to be had, he sent our forefathers into Egypt; that was the first time.
On their second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Pharaoh was informed of Joseph's parentage.
Then Joseph sent and invited his father Jacob and all his family, numbering seventy-five persons, to come to him,
and Jacob went down into Egypt. There he died, and so did our forefathers,
and they were taken to Shechem and were laid in the tomb which Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a sum of money paid in silver.
"But as the time drew near for the fulfilment of the promise which God had made to Abraham, the people became many times more numerous in Egypt,
until there arose a foreign king over Egypt who knew nothing of Joseph.
He adopted a crafty policy towards our race, and oppressed our forefathers, making them cast out their infants so that they might not be permitted to live.
At this time Moses was born--a wonderfully beautiful child; and for three months he was cared for in his father's house.
At length he was cast out, but Pharaoh's daughter adopted him, and brought him up as her own son.
So Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and possessed great influence through his eloquence and his achievements.
"And when he was just forty years old, it occurred to him to visit his brethren the descendants of Israel.
Seeing one of them wrongfully treated he took his part, and secured justice for the ill-treated man by striking down the Egyptian.
He supposed his brethren to be aware that by him God was sending them deliverance; this, however, they did not understand.
The next day, also, he came and found two of them fighting, and he endeavoured to make peace between them. "`Sirs,' he said, `you are brothers. Why are you wronging one another?'
"But the man who was doing the wrong resented his interference, and asked, "`Who appointed you magistrate and judge over us?
Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?'
"Alarmed at this question, Moses fled from the country and went to live in the land of Midian. There he became the father of two sons.
"But at the end of forty years there appeared to him in the Desert of Mount Sinai an angel in the middle of a flame of fire in a bush.
When Moses saw this he wondered at the sight; but on his going up to look further, the voice of the Lord was heard, saying,
"`I am the God of your forefathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.' "Quaking with fear Moses did not dare gaze.
"`Take off your shoes,' said the Lord, `for the spot on which you are standing is holy ground.
I have seen, yes, I have seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt and have heard their groans, and I have come down to deliver them. And now I will send you to Egypt.'
"The Moses whom they rejected, asking him, `Who appointed you magistrate and judge?' --that same Moses we find God sending as a magistrate and a deliverer by the help of the angel who appeared to him in the bush.
This was he who brought them out, after performing marvels and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea, and in the Desert for forty years.
This is the Moses who said to the descendants of Israel, "`God will raise up a Prophet for you, from among your brethren, just as He raised me up.'
`This is he who was among the Congregation in the Desert, together with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai and with our forefathers, who received ever-living utterances to hand on to us.
"Our forefathers, however, would not submit to him, but spurned his authority and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.
They said to Aaron, "`Make gods for us, to march in front of us; for as for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.'
"Moreover they made a calf at that time, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and kept rejoicing in the gods which their own hands had made.
So God turned from them and gave them up to the worship of the Host of Heaven, as it is written in the Book of the Prophets, "'Were they victims and sacrifices which you offered Me, forty years in the Desert, O House of Israel?
Yes, you lifted up Moloch's tent and the Star of the God Rephan--the images which you made in order to worship them; and I will remove you beyond Babylon.'
"Our forefathers had the Tent of the Testimony in the Desert, built as He who spoke to Moses had instructed him to make it in imitation of the model which he had seen.
That Tent was bequeathed to the next generation of our forefathers. Under Joshua they brought it with them when they were taking possession of the land of the Gentile nations, whom God drove out before them. So it continued till David's time.
David obtained favour with God, and asked leave to provide a dwelling-place for the God of Jacob.
But it was Solomon who built a house for Him.
Yet the Most High does not dwell in buildings erected by men's hands. But, as the Prophet declares,
"`The sky is My throne, and earth is the footstool for My feet. What kind of house will you build for Me, says the Lord, or what resting place shall I have?
Did not My hand form this universe.'
"O stiff-necked men, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you also are continually at strife with the Holy Spirit--just as your forefathers were.
Which of the Prophets did not your forefathers persecute? Yes, they killed those who announced beforehand the advent of the righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become--
you who received the Law given through angels, and yet have not obeyed it."
As they listened to these words, they became infuriated and gnashed their teeth at him.
But, full of the Holy Spirit and looking up to Heaven, Stephen saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God's right hand.
"I can see Heaven wide open," he said, "and the Son of Man standing at God's right hand."
Upon this, with a loud outcry they stopped their ears, rushed upon Stephen in a body,
dragged him out of the city, and stoned him, the witnesses throwing off their outer garments and giving them into the care of a young man called Saul.
So they stoned Stephen, while he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Then, rising on his knees, he cried aloud, "Lord, do not reckon this sin against them." And with these words he fell asleep.