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met the wisdom of this world and the foolishness of yet be turned to good account. This appetite for the preaching. Here the Cross of Christ came into contact spiritual proclaims man to be the child of God, although with the best that human reason had been able to dis- in a state of disease it seeks impure food. This appetite cover. Here, as elsewhere, the preached gospel will be may yet be fed with the bread of life. He knew that a dividing word. The cross raised on the Areopagus the “ demon-dread” with which his audience were will be like the cross erected by Pilate's soldiers on affected was a dark superstition; but he did not openly Calvary in this—that on one side of it there will be a or offensively, in the first instance, say so. He will lead scorner, and on the other side a sinner saved by faith. them by a gentler and, as he hopes, a surer method to From the one side you hear the sneer, “If thou be the truth. He conciliates their favour by acknowledgChrist, save thyself and us;" from the other the prayer, ing their religiousness; and then endeavours to turn the " Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy king- wandering stream of their piety into the right channel. dom.” In Athens, as in Jerusalem, it is “on either Paul paced the streets of Athens like other strangers. side one, and Jesus in the midst.”
He looked eagerly on every object of interest. He observed men as well as things ; actions as well as scenes. He took mental note of all that he saw, and
classified the facts in his memory for subsequent use. ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN.
This is a most precious faculty. Any person can see
the objects ; not every person can arrange his observaACTs xvii. 22-31.
tions in order, and lay them where they will be available Paul's address on the Areopagus is, even in a merely in time of need. literary and archæological point of view, one of the most Of the various objects which had attracted his attenbeautiful gems that have descended from ancient to tion on the streets, one now started to his memory, and modern times. In itself, and in its adaptation to leaped to his lips. “As I passed by, and beheld your circumstances, it exhibits great literary power and con- devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To the summate skill. It is a fine example of the preacher's unknown God.” Some pilgrims were bringing a votive own rule--that is, of becoming all things to all men offering and laying it on an altar as the apostle passed. that he might gain some. He grasps firmly at the He will turn aside and study them. He sees the insame moment both his own aim as a missionary of scription—"To the unknown God.” The sad words are Christ, and the peculiar character of his audience. His written not with a pencil in a note-book, but with a pen speech is a noble effort to win for the gospel the most of iron on his memory. He weeps in secret over the cultivated and refined people of that age. It is a grand blindness of the heathen. He possesses a light which will crisis ; and this Jew is equal to it. The apostle of chase away that darkness. He longs to make God known Jesus Christ is at length face to face with human in the Mediator. civilization in its highest form, and his aim is to over- These idolaters seem to have advanced one step turn it-to place it on a new foundation and animate beyond their own idolatry. They felt, and sadly owned, it with a new spirit. He stands up, waves his hand, that with their thirty thousand deities, and their city and begins.“ Athenians, everything I behold gives full of temples, they had not yet discovered the truth. evidence that you are very devotional.” The words of There remained something which they could not reach, the English version — “ too superstitious” — are not and without which they could not be happy. After happily chosen. It is quite true that in Paul's view this unknown One they grope blindfold. They stretch their worship was superstition, and in his mind the word out their arms into night, and on closing them embrace he employed attributed to them a reverence for demons. only the damp air. But the word was ambiguous, and to his audience it The astronomers Leverrier and Adams, in separate might convey the idea of religiosity without suggesting countries at the same time, observing certain motions anything offensive. They will discover as he proceeds among the spheres which could not be accounted for by what he thinks of their religious rites ; but, in the first any known cause, concluded that there must be a body instance, he conveys to their minds only the idea that not yet discovered, somewhere in the regions of space in he considered them very religious. He speaks the which the disturbances were observed. Seeking in the truth according to his own judgment; but he care- direction thus indicated, they found the far distant and fully avoids such harshness at the outset as might have hitherto unknown world. So Greek philosophy was bereft him of his coveted opportunity. He will not able, from the appetites and vacancies of the human mind, offend the audience in the first sentence.
which all the idols could not satisfy, to determine that This missionary is a philosopher as well as a Christian. there must be some God hitherto from them concealed, He will preach Christianity, not philosophy; but he to whom these appetites pointed, and without whom will employ philosophy as an instrument in his work. they could not be satisfied. Their skill could discover According to the symbolic phraseology of the Apocalypse, in a general way their need, but they could not their the earth will help the woman. In the intense devotion searching find the missing Portion for a human soul. of the Athenians Paul recognized a power which might | This messenger who now speaks to them can supply the
ACTS xvii. 32.
lack. Through Christ he can make known to them the withering words, “Forasmuch then as we are the offFather. “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him spring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead declare I unto you.” Paul was willing to take their is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and confessed sense of want as inquiry after the living God, man's device.” and offered to lead them by the gospel into his pre- The times of this ignorance God looked over-that is,
he waited for his own set time, and then sent the Word Incidentally, while preaching to the philosophers, the forth from Jerusalem to the nations. In that Word apostle declares the unity of the human race. Of one he commands all men everywhere to repent. God in blood are all nations. The blood is the life. He con- the gospel not only permits and invites, he commands ceives of it as a river flowing from one fountain, and men to repent and believe and live. This is his combranching out into many channels. The stream has, in mandment- to Greeks and to Britons – in the first point of fact, been continuous, like waters that fail not. century and the nineteenth — his commandment is, The blood that flows in the veins of this generation has “ That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus descended in an uninterrupted stream from the prim- Christ, whom he hath sent." eval man. This stream is one; it had not several distinct fountains. The Greeks were a fine race of men; and they knew it.
XXIV. In regard to physical symmetry, they thought of them
GO THY WAY FOR THIS TIME. selves as the Pharisees thought of their spiritual attainments. They trusted in themselves that they were intellectually and physically beautiful, and despised On the Areopagus, as elsewhere, Paul would have more others. Mankind were divided in their conception into fully opened the gospel of Christ if the proud audience two great sections – Greeks and Barbarians. They had been willing to hear him. But when he reached would not admit a community of race with other peoples; his favourite theme, the resurrection of Christ, they but, alas, in order to isolate and so distinguish them- | lost patience, and raised an uproar. They rudely shut selves, the highest fiction they could invent was that the preacher's mouth, and so shut the door of mercy they had sprung from the soil of Greece !
against themselves. It is instructive to observe wherein This old heathen fable is curiously cognate with the the offence of the cross specifically lay in those times latest speculations which a sect of secular philosophers and for those people; it lay in the resurrection of are at this day zealously propagating. The old fiction Christ, which implied ..so bis death as an atonement assumed a poetical form—the living men, full-bodied for sin. The Athenians could bear the cutting remaršs and perfect, sprang from the mother earth; the modern of the stranger on their own ignorance, as confessed in myth, as becomes its date, is dressed up in a complete the memorable altar-inscription; they could bear the suit of scientific garments. But it is the same in its exposure of their own inconsistency in acknowledging substance ; for it represents that men, body and soul as God their Father, and yet paying homage to a marble you now behold them, came, through an infinite succession statue; they could bear the announcement of a great of steps indeed, but still came, without an intelligent assize in which the whole world must stand before a cause, from dead matter-that is, that they sprang from human judge, divinely appointed to distribute rewards the ground. Thus human reason, when left to itself in and punishments: but when Paul proceeded to declare matters that relate to God and the soul, spins round in the central fact on which the hope of men must hanga giddy circle, and thinks it is making progress. the atoning death and the glorious resurrection of the
After glancing at God's providential reign over the man Christ Jesus—their philosophy and politeness world, the preacher comes more closely home to his could not bear them further-they broke out into scornheathen audience, and out of their own lips convicts ful interruptions, and the speaker's voice was drowned them of not acting up to the light they possessed. By in the tumult. This is the offence of the cross to-day. the mouth of their own poets they professed themselves How significant in this aspect are the words of the to be the offspring of God, and yet they worshipped Lord : “ Blessed is he who shall not be offended in me.” wood and stone-the work of their own hands. It is Paul departed from among them doubtless with a worthy of remark here that Aratus, the poet whon Paul heavy heart. It seemed to him at that inonient that quotes, was a native of Tarsus. Paul must have been his labour was lost. Not long after, however, he acquainted with his writings in the schools of his native learned that some of the good seed had fallen into broken place. An almost identical phrase occurs also in the hymn ground. Even on the hard soil of the Areopagus, to Jupiter by Cleanthes, a distinguished disciple of Zeno, where he bad scattered his seed weeping, he gathered the founder of the Stoic sect. Perhaps the preacher sheaves with joy. glanced toward the colossal statue of Minerva, the That congregation of Greeks was divided into three patron saint of the city, fixed on the top of the temple distinct parts. The descriptions are given with great that crowned the Acropolis, the pride of Athens and distinctness. Paul rightly divided that day the Word the work of her greatest artist, while he uttered the of truth, and the Word divided the hearers into dis
ACTS xvii. 34.
tinct and well-defined groups : into mockers, hesitators, closing with Christ an evil day, they put it as far off as and cleaving believers. Examine them one by one. they could. They did not venture to say Never ; but
1. The mockers. When the preacher spoke of the they went the length of saying, Not now. resurrection of the dead, a portion of the audience This intermediate class is very numerous in our own age. loadly jeered him. Paul told the story of the cross : They are a very large flock; and in their present condition how the Son of God took our nature, and in it suffered it is not the Father's good pleasure to give them the death for our sin ; that through divine power he rose kingdom. They do not erase the gospel from their from the dead and ascended into heaven; and that all creeds; but they will not permit it to reign in their hearts who accept him as their Saviour, will rise to reign with and mould their lives. They are willing to possess a relihim for ever. It was at this point that a portion of gion ; but not willing that religion should possess them. these volatile Athenians began to make sport of the They will wear it as a very becoming ornament; but preacher. These, whether socially higher or lower, they will not flee to hide in it as their life. They will were in spirit the hardest and coldest of the company. | keep near the door which it opens, that they may run They were fast and free livers. Probably they belonged into it at any moment when their case becomes desperate; to the sect of Epicureans. They enjoyed life, and kept but they will not press through it now, lest some right the thought of death away. They made no apology to arn should be torn off in the passage, and the presence the distinguished stranger; they did not take the of Christ within should cast a danıp over their vain trouble of making a hypocritical promise to consider the pleasures. They would fain hope that Christ will stand subject and call again. Nor were they content with ready to open the door of heaven for them on that day ; simply neglecting the message. They made sport of but they are not willing to open the door of their hearts the preacher and his theme in presence of the assembly. for him this day. They slumber while the Bridegroom They went away laughing at the truth of God and the passes ; alas! it is to be feared the Bridegroom will God of truth.
refuse to open when at length they begin to knock and If our voice could reach the modern representatives cry. of these jolly Greeks, we should affectionately and solemnly suggest to them that if God is, their laugh
XXV. will not make him cease to be; that their destiny is
HE GAINS SOME. long, but their views at present short; that they have not made sure that when we are dead we are done; that it is a fearful thing for a scoffer to fall into the hands of We have reached deep waters at last, after passing the the living God. What if the very intellect that enables noisy foam and the deceitful shallows. After passing in you to entertain the question whether there be a God, be review the scorners and the procrastinators, we have conclusive evidence that there is a God who gave it? come to the belicvers. “Howbeit, certain men clave What if this “No God," a judgment pronounced by an unto him and believed.” First of all, it is instructive to intelligent self-conscious spirit, be itself evidence that observe the relations in which the Athenian believers God is ? If God had not been, there could have existed stood to Paul the minister on the one hand, and to no creature capable of entertaining the question whether Christ the Redeemer on the other. They clave-they there be a God.
were glued to the preacher. As iron under the influence 2. The hesitators. “ Others said, We will hear thee of the magnetic current cleaves to the magnet, their again of this matter.” They listened respectfully to the hearts held to the man who made the Saviour known. public address ; and when the hubbub caused by the To the stranger Jew who told of Jesus crucified and tourners had subsided, they approached the speaker and risen, those Greek citizens, including one at least of the politely excused themselves for not complying with his ruling class, fondly, firmly clung as to their life. invitation. These men were between two opposités, Strange; and that too at the moment when their quickand perhaps found themselves in a strait. On the one witted countrymen were making merry with the outside
, in a group that clustered round the preacher, they landish opinions and speech of the foreigner. A might observe gushing tears and other symptons of principle more secret and more strong than magnetism broken bearts; and on the other side, they might see had been generated in their hearts by this preacher's the smile of scorn curling on the lips of scoffers as they word. By an irresistible law of the new nature they descended the steps into the forum again. Perhaps were drawn to the man who made known the Saviour t.ese men were really perplexed, and meant to recon- of sinners. But, tender though their love was to Paul, sider the subject. Convinced in their consciences that through whom the word came, it did not terminate on the testimony of the apostle had all the air of truth, him. They cleaved to him and believed; that is, they did not dare to scoff; but, wedded to their own while this man's lips were the channel through which ease and pleasure, they were not willing to take up the the word of life reached them, the ultimate longing of cross and follow Christ. Accordingly they adopted an their hearts-their ultimate grasp-reached and rested intermediate course. They made a respectful apology on Christ crucified, whom Paul preached. They believed to the preacher and went away. Counting the time of Paul, but they believed in Christ.
ACTS xviii. 1-9.
No wonder that these newly converted Greeks Let none be surprised when they see the anguished cleaved to the skirts of Paul. He was already a strong earnestness of awakened souls. Be surprised and sus
He had reached full stature, and was more picious rather when the matter is taken coolly. vigorous in faith and hope than others, because his The first sensations of this cleaving are beyond graces bad all been greatly tried. They were little measure sweet to a missionary at home or abroad. He children, and the world a treacherous sea; it was has toiled in the ministry for a series of years, wearied, natural that they should cling to their spiritual father, and almost wearied out, by a dreary alternation of Paul's as if for their life.
first two Athenian experiences—the scoff of the mockers, An artist has painted a marine scene at the crisis of and the heartless, soulless apology of the worldling as a heart-stirring event, and the group is constituted thus : he turns his back. When he is at the point of giving From the rigging of a distressed ship on a wild sea a over in despair, he is startled by an unwonted, almost stout rope hangs over the side. In the lower extremity unexpected sensation. Surely the line that he has held of that rope a solitary seaman, evidently a volunteer in dangling loose over that dreary sea for so many nights the business, his strong limbs and stronger heart going was tightened a little. It is even so. The line is tight into it with all their might, a solitary seaman hangs. and heavy. His heart leaps for joy. The missionary To the seaman clings a mother, and to the mother, seen feels living souls cleaving to his own, that he may dimly through the drifting spray, clings an infant. The | help them to Christ their life. This cleaving to the cry, " They're saved,” rings out that moment from the servant is a symptom of believing in the Lord. eager spectators who watch the crisis from the deck. Although Christ alone is the Saviour, the ministry of The seaman was the child's saviour that day; yet the man holds an important place. How tender are these seaman touched not the child ; the child touched not relations in time! How happy in eternity! the seaman. The mother was sustained by that hero's strength, and the child hung upon the mother. It is in some such way as this that Christ was the Saviour of those Greeks, although they grasped Paul, as if they
TO THE JEWS A STUMBLING-BLOCK, AND TO were glued to his person. The apostle served at the
THE GREEKS FOOLISHNESS. moment as a link between them and the Lord : “ministered by us."
We know that this minister was faithful. He was "AFTER these things Paul departed from Athens." zealous for the honour of his Lord and the safety of his Alas! he had seen little fruit in that city. “ The world brethren. If he had seen that those Greeks were by wisdom knew not God."
The apostle seems to have been interrupted by an grasp with livelier loathing than that with which he outburst of contempt, as soon as he reached his main shook the venomous reptile from his hand into the fire subject, Jesus and the resurrection. They listened at Malta. If he had seen that they were superstitiously respectfully as long as he contended with the Epilooking to him for help, he would have rebuked them as cureans and the Stoics : they were interested by his he rebuked others with that terrible demand, “Was discourse on natural religion; perhaps they admired his Paul crucified for you ?"
dialectic against idolatry: but as soon as he began to There is a world of meaning in this cleaving—this preach Jesus, they raised a shout of derision and gluing of themselves to their instructor. The danger is drowned the preacher's voice. great, the time is short, the struggle is hard. Christi- “They walked according to the course of this world, the anity is not a pleasant dream; it is a real warfare. The spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." corresponding expression in Peter's exhortation throws The spirit that ruled then permitted them to hear Parl's light on the eager cleaving of our text. “The righteous," philosophy, but raised a tumult to prevent them from he intimates, “are scarcely saved.” It is a close run, listening to Paul's gospel. The strong man armed kept a hair-breadth escape, like the escape of Lot from Sodom his goods in peace, as long as the preliminary argument when the angels laid hold of him and dragged him away lasted; but at the approach of this testimony to Jesus
, from doom. It is the salvation of one who strips off not he dreaded lest a stronger than he should burst in; only his wealth and his pleasures and his ornaments accordingly he quickly shut the gates. to escape through the narrow gate as poor as he was It is a melancholy reflection that the gospel in great born, but of one who strips himself off-the old man measure failed in Athens. There is no epistle of Patil with his deeds—and enters life as he was born again, to the Athenians, while no less than two letters of his the new creature only. I think I see groups of sinners to each of the two great mercantile cities, Thessalonics saved, assembling immediately within the gate, telling and Corinth, have come down to us. Athens in the each other of their dangers and escapes, every heart midst sat alone as a queen, representing the philosophy beating with the recent tumult, but every eye beaming and the art of Greece. There the kingdom of Christ with unspeakable delight. Through fire and water they could not obtain a footing. But Thessalonica on the have been brought; but now they are in a wealthy place. one side, and Corinth on the other, became the scenes of
their idol, he would have shaken of their | 59
great missionary succes, the sites of early and flourish- It was often in time of war fortified by a wall. Corinth ing Christian Churches.
had been destroyed by a Roman army ; but Julius The wealth and luxury, and even profligacy of Corinth, Cæsar restored it; and at the time of Paul's visit it had did not in point of fact present so hard a wayside for again become a great city. It enjoyed an extensive the seed as the earthly wisdom of Athens. Not only commerce. licentious Corinth, but barbarous Melita, and warrior Here Paul attached himself to a worthy Jewish Rome, afforded to the living word a better seed-bed than couple, Aquila and Priscilla, who were tent-makers, and the schools of contending philosophies.
who subsequently at various places gave effective aid to Some have connected this lack of success with the the ministers of the gospel. In their company and in special method adopted by the apostle among the Athe- their workshop he laboured with his hands, earning his nians. They have said, his experience discourages daily bread, and preaching as he obtained opportunities every effort to accommodate the presentation of the in the city. A workshop is not a bad place for preachgospel to the tastes and attainments of the audience. ing in. If the heart of one workman is filled with the In short, they imagine that Paul made a blunder in love of Christ, all the hands will hear of it. Every attempting to adapt his discourse to the mental habits Sabbath-day the synagogue was open, and Paul plied of the philosophers; and that the result shows he should his opportunity there. He seenis in the first instance have delivered his message in the same form at Athens to have associated almost exclusively with the Jews in as at Philippi. But this is a mistaken view. The Corinth, perhaps because of the bitter disappointment preaching comparatively failed at Athens, not because he met at the hands of the Greeks in Athens.
of the preacher's method, but in spite of it. The After Silas and Timothy rejoined him, Paul launched | message was rejected although Paul did much to com- out more boldly in his mission at Corinth. But again a
mend it to the cultivated Greeks ; how much more if storm of persecution arose. The Jews as usual were he had neglected all art and effort in his approaches ? the bitterest enemies of the gospel. In the midst of his This sower went forth to sor, and sowed very skilfully : discouragement, however, a great consolation was conbut the seed did not grow, because the ground on which ferred upon him in the conversion of Crispus, the chief it fell was dry and hard.
ruler of the synagogue, and all his house. Writing Erery minister of the Word should do his utmost to afterwards to the Church at Corinth, Paul said that with become all things to all men, that he may gain some : the temptations that had been allowed to come, the but when he has delivered his message, and the message Lord had also opened a way of escape. He spoke from has been neglected, let not men deceive themselves with his own experience. Very heavy trials overtook him in the reflection that the cause of their carelessness was that city; but God who sent them did not leave him to the unskilfulness of the preacher.
sink. He made a way of escape; and that way was a I do not excuse negligence in the preacher. I ask no divine revelation. “The Lord spake to Paul by a vision.” leniency of judgment in his favour. He is inexcusable Left to his own sagacity and vigour, the treatment he if he do not put all his force and skill into his work, met at Corinth, coming immediately after his experience for it is an errand of life and death on which he is sent: at Athens, might have been too much for the missionary. but I earnestly warn all who hear the gospel that no At Athens he addressed himself to the Gentiles, but his charge against the preacher's methods, however well efforts failed; in Corinth he returned to the synagogue, founded, will relieve from condemnation those who are but the Jews opposed themselves and blasphemed. not in Christ.
“Then spake the Lord :" man's extremity is God's He came to Corinth, about forty-five miles distant. | opportunity. When all seemed shut around this witThe province of Achaia then, like the modern kingdom ness, a door of escape was opened. Help came precisely of Greece, consisted of the Morea and a portion of the when it is needed. When Pharaoh is already pressing mainland on the north. There were two Roman on the rear of the camp, the Red Sea divides in front, provinces—Vacedonia on the north, with Thessalonica and the people pass over, the people whom the Lord as the capital ; and Achaia on the south, with Corinth has redeemed. When Timothy and Silas prove too as its capital. The city occupied an advantageous feeble as comforters, the Master himself sustains his position on the neck of the peninsula, with shipping on fainting servant in the everlasting arms. “Lo, I am either side. At several periods attempts had been made with you always.” It is ever so in the experience of to cut a canal across; but they had never been successful. disciples : when I am weak, then am I strong.