Page images
PDF
EPUB

the proper

tools upon

ed messengers of this glorious salvation to preach to the Gentiles that they might be saved; thereby, alas, filling up the measure of their ini. quities, till wrath came upon them to the uttermost, and avenged at once the blood of Christ and that of his ministers, whom they had slaughtered, and those immortal souls whom they had laboured to de stroy.

Their blind and furious zeal for the law, to which, after all, the apostles did a much greater honour than they could possibly do, engaged them to list under their banners the vilest and most infamous of mankind, certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, the pitch of whose understandings, as well as the turn of their tempers, rendered them

such occasions. And these profligate wretches themselves, the reproach and the plague of mankind, are the persons into whose mouth that senseless cry against the apostles was to be put, that they turned the world upside down. ' Competent judges indeed of the interests of society, and worthy guardians of its peace !-Such charges, we see, may be brought against the most innocent, the most benevolent, and the most useful of mankind. Thus was Paul accused by Tertullus, as a pestilent fellow, a mover of sedition throughout the world, and a ringleader of one of the most pernicious sects that ever appeared in it: Nor did Jesus, our divine Master, escape; but was accused, condemned, and executed, as a traitor to Cæsar and to his country. But could these clamorous creatures have thought of proof, where would they have been able to find it? If to testify the truth which God had given them in charge; if to exhort to universal love ; if to command men that they should study to be quiet, and do their own business, that if it were possible, as much as lay in them, they should live peaceably with all men, doing good to all as they had opportunity; if to enforce these exhortations by the strongest arguments, the warmest exhortations by the most amiable examples; if thus to teach, and thus to act, were turning the world upside down, the apos-tles were indeed the subverters of it:- But 0, who would not pray for the happy time, when the world should be thus subverted !

Let the claims of Jesus to universal monarchy be rightly understood, and Cæsar shall find nothing contrary to his just decrees, but every thing subservient to his truest interest. The Redeemer's kingdom is not of this world; nor can the just rights both of princes and subjects be ever so effectually esta shed, as by a submission him. May the kings of the earth be so wise as to know this, and all under their government so happy as seriously to consider it.-Security was taken of Paul's friends, and it was prudent in the magistrates to carry it no further. The apostle himself was obliged immediately to quit them, under the shelter of the night, with a heart full of tender solicitude for these new converts; yet he did not reflect upon his journey to Thessalonica with regret, but amidst all the difficulties he met with, was (as he afterwards tells them) incessantly thanking God on their account, because they received the gospel which they heard of him, not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God, and became followers of the churches of God elsewhere. Providence brought him in safety and liberty to Berea, and here he met with a more candid

reception. The Bereans shewed a true nobleness of spirit, for they received the word with readiness, and searched the scriptures daily, that they might judge for themselves, whether things were there as Paul represented them. While the ministers of Christ are faithful and skilful in the execution of their office, they will not desire that what they say should be received with an implicit subjection ; but will be contented, will be solicitous, it should be tried by the standard of scristure. To this touchstone may our doctrines and exhortations be honestly brought, and let them always be received or rejected as they are found agreeable or disagreeable to it.

SECTION XL.

Paul, while at Athens, deeply affected with the idolatry of that learned city,

makes an excellent discourse to the philosophers. Ch. xvii. 16, &c.

[ocr errors]

-16 OW while Paul was waiting for Silas and Timothy at Athens, 17 the city enslaved to idolatry. He therefore discoursed in the

synagogue to the Jews, and to the other pious persons that wor

shipped with them, on their sabbath-days ; and every day in the 18 forum or market-place to those whom he met with there.-But

some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers opposed themselves to him: and some said in a scornful manner, What will this retailer of scraps say? And others, He seems to be a proclaimer of

foreign deities ; because he preached to them Jesus and the re19 surrection.—And they took him, and conducted him to the Areo

pagus*, where they accosted him, saying, May we know what this 20 new doctrine is, which is spoken by thee ?. for thou bringest some

strange things to our ears : we would therefore know what these 21 things mean? For all the Athenians, and the strangers that so

journ among them, delight to spend their leisure time in nothing 22 else but telling or hearing somewhat 1:ew.-Paul therefore, stand

ing up in the middle of the Areopagus, said, Ye men of Athens,

I perceive you are exceedingly addicted to the worship of invisi23 ble powerst. For as I passed along, and beheld the objects of your worship, I found

an altar on which there was this inscription, « To th unknown God." Him therefore, whom ye worship 24 without knowing himt, do I declare unto you. The God, who

made the world, and all things that are therein, being the

Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with 25 hands : neither is he served by human hands, as if he stood in

need of any thing; he himself giving to all life, and breath, and 26 all things. And he hath made of one blood the whole nation of 27 that they might seek after the Lord, if possibly they might feel

men, to inhabit all the face of the earth, having marked out the times fore-allotted to each, and the boundaries of their habitations ;

* Or, Mars-hill, the supreme court of Athens.

+ To charge them with superstition or ignorance, would not suit the decorum which such a well-bred man as Paul would doubtless maintain before this polite assembly

after him and find him; though he be not far from every one of us: 28 for in him we live, and are moved, and do exist ; as some of your 39 own poets * have said : For we his offspring are." We there

fore, being the offspring of God, ought not to imagine the Deity

to be like gold, or silver, or stone wrought by the art and contri. 30 vance of man, For though God overlooked the times of igno

rance, he now chargeth all men to whom his gospel comes, every 31 where to repent ; because he hath appointed a day, in which he

will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath

ordained, Jesus Christ ; of which he hath given assurance to all 32 men by raising him from the dead. And when they heard of the

resurrection of the dead, some made a jest of it, and others said, S3 We will hear thee again upon this subject. And thus Paul went

out of the midst of them, leaving the greater part of this learned 34 auditory as he found them. Nevertheless some men adhered to

him, and after further inquiry believed ; among whom was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman whose name was Damaris, and some others with them, who will hereafter be mentioned.

REFLECTIONS. Adored be the depths of divine counsel and grace, that when in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by what they impiously derided as the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. Whose spirit is not stirred in some measure, to behold the learned and polite city of Athens, not only abandoned to trifling speculations, but enslaved to idolatry and superstition ? And, on the other hand, who can be so insensible of all the charms of reason and true eloquence, as not to be delighted with those prudent and generous attempts which Paul made to recover them from it? When derided and affronted as a vain babbler, as a retailer of scraps, by those who indeed shewed themselves to deserve that infamous name, judging a matter before they heard it, and so convicting themselves of shame and folly, he, in the meekness of wisdom, addresses himself to them with that soft tongue which breaketh the bones. His doctrine dropped as the rain, and his speech distilled as the dew : Pity it was that it produced no more valuable fruits, but rather was abused by some that heard it, to nourish those poisonous weeds which were, alas, the native growth of this luxuriant soil.

We see, that while Paul passed through the streets of Athens, his mind was filled with such pious and benevolent affections as became the mind of a Christian and an apostle ; and beholding this inscription to the unknown God, he applies himself immediately to declare him to them. Adored be the divine goodness, that we are from our infancy happy in the use of such divine instructions as he gave the Athenians and others ; and that though we worship a God whose infinite perfections can never be traced out, he is not entirely an unknown deity to us! May he be known, adored, and obeyed, wide as the

* ARATUS, and CLEANTHES in his Hymn to Jupiter:

works of his hand extend ! Even he, the supreme Lord of all, who made heaven and earth, and all that is in them ; in

consequence of which he is infinitely superior to all our most exalted services, as well as beyond any of those representations of him which the ignorance and folly of men have invented in gold, silver, and stone. His power created all, and by his goodness all are supported. Let us consider ourselves as his offspring, honouring and loving him as the great Father of our Spirits ; and since we have so necessary and uninterrupted a dependance upon him, since in him we live, and move, and exist continually, let all the affections of our hearts, and all the actions of our lives, be consecrated to his service : And this so much the rather, as it evidently appears, by the revelation of his gospel, that he does not overlook us, but in the most solemn manner calls upon us, and upon all men every where to repent, and to return to him ; setting before us in so clear a view the awful solemnity of that appointed day, in which he will judge the whole world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained to this glorious purpose, even by Jesus, to whom, as the Son of man, all judgment is wisely and righteously committed. The Lord grant that we may all find mercy of the Lord in that day ! In the mean time, may the declaration of it bring multitudes to repentance and faith ; and especially may it work thus on those who, like Dionysius and Damaris, are distinguished by their rank and circumstances in life, that their usefulness in the world may be as extensive as their influence, and their names precious in the church among those that are yet unborn.

SECTION XLI.

Paul settles at Corinth, is encouraged by a vision of Christ, and rescued by

Gallio from the rage of the Jews. Ch. xviii. 1--17.

FTER these things, Paul departing from Athens, came to the 2 city of Corinth ; and finding there a certain Jew named A

quila, a native of Pontus, lately come from Italy, with Priscilla

his wife (because Claudius Cæsar had commanded all the Jews to 3 depart from Rome) he went to lodge with them. And as he was of

the same trade, he continued with them, and wrought at it ; for

they were tent-makers, and Paul had been instructed in that art*. 4 But he disputed in the synagogue every sabbath-day, and persuaded

both the Jews and the Greeks to embrace Christianity, not without some successf. And as soon as Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul was borne away in his spirit by an unusual impulse, and openly testified to the Jews, that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they set themselves in opposition to his doctrine, and blasphemed, he shook his garment, and said to them, Let your blood

be upon your own head! I am pure from it. From henceforth I * It was usual for the Jews of all classes to be brought up to some mechanical employment.

Stephanus and Epenetus were some of his first converts here. Rom. xv.5. 1 Cor. i. 14, 16. xvi. 15.

7 will go to the Gentiles. And going out from thence, he went into

the house of one called Justus, a worshipper of the true God, 8 whose house was adjoining to the synagogue. And Crispus, the

ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his house ;

and many also of the Corinthians hearing the gospel, believed, and 9 were baptized. Then the Lord said to Paul (who at this time felt

great discouragement*) by a vision in the night, Fear not, but 10 speak and do not keep silence ; for I am with thee, and no man

shall fall upon thee to injure thee ; for I have much people in this 11 city, to whom thy ministry shall be successful. And with this en

couragement he sat down there a year and six months, teaching the

word of God among them with great success. 12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made an

assault upon Paul with one consent, and brought him before the 13 tribunal, saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God con14 trary to the law. And when Paul would have opened his mouth in

his own defence, Gallio kindly prevented him, and said to the Jews, If it were an act of injustice, or mischievous licentiousness, O ye

Jews, with which you charged this person, it were reasonable I should 15 bear with you. But if it be a question concerning words, and

names, and the law which is among you (or affairs of religion]

see to it yourselves ; for I will be no judge of these matters, which 16 are foreign to my office. And with this wise answer he drove them

from the tribunal.–And all the Greeks laid hold on Sosthenes the ruler of the synagogue, as the chief occasion of the firosecution, and beat him before the tribunal ; but Gallio did not-concern himself at all in the affair.

17 away

REFLECTIONS. Much of the divine wisdom and goodness is seen in providing for those who are employed in the work of the gospel, suitable associates and companions in their labours ; and particularly happy are they to whom God hath been pleased to give, as to the pious Ayuila, such a companion in the nearest relation of life, as may belp them forward in the way to heaven, and may assist them in the service of religion, while they continue on earth. Much were the fatigues of Paul's life softened by the converse of such friends, who no doubt rendered the common business of life more pleasant, as well as the work of the Lord more delightful. We find them, while endeavouring to propagate the gospel, maintaining themselves (for reasons peculiar to that situation) by the labour of their own hands, and even Paul the apostle wrought with them ; not because he had not a right to demand support, for he strenuously maintains that right at large, in his address to these. very Corinthians, (1 Cor. ix. 1-14.) but to shame his mean-spirited enemies, who accused him of acting on mercenary views ; and because he thought in his conscience, on some other accounts, that his fidelity to Christ would be so much the more apparent, and his labours by this means so much the more successful. And what faithful minister, who

* On account of liis own imperfections, to which he refers, 1 Cor. ii. 3.

« PreviousContinue »