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St. Paul ; and yet it does not relate the whole, or even give us the clofing scene of his life.
Paul, therefore, and his beloved Barnabas, set out from Antioch upon their momentous embassy. Having arrived at Cyprus, a large island in the Media terranean sea, they travelled through it, preaching by the way. At Paphos, a principal town, a fingular occurrence happened. Sergius Paulus, the deputy or Roman governor of the country, discovered a favourable disposition, and expressed a desire to hear the Gospel. But Elymas, à noted magician in the place, endeavoured to prejudice him against it, probably through a fear of losing his own consequence. Immediately, however, at the word of Paul, this vile opposer of the faith, who laboured to keep others in spiritual darkness, was ftruck blind; and the ruler, convinced by the miracle, embraced the truth. Many circumtances conspire to prevent the free access of the ministers of Christ to persons of high rank. They, whose interest or ascendancy is likely to be fubverted by an admiffion of the Gora pel, may always be expected to refift it: and therefore Satan, dobtiels, employs his instruments, if posible, to exclude religion from courts and palaces. But our God, who is mighty, can suddenly confound the purposes of his enemies, and render them subservient to his counsels. In due tiine, through the strong influence of his Spirit, even “ kings shall fall down before him," and become “ the nursingfathers" of his Church *.
From Cyprus, Paul and his companions went to Perga in Pamphylia; and there they were deserted by John Mark, who very dishonourably declined the service, and returned to Jerusalem. He did not renounce the faith ; but his conduct was highly blamable, and produced bad consequences. Ah! what pain do fincere persons feel, on account of such
* Pfal. Ixxii, 11. Ira. xlix. 23.
cases ! cases! Yet, considering what human nature is, we may expect to fuffer, not only through the apoftafy of falle brethren, but also through the imprudence, loth, and cowardice of real Chriftians. We ought to mourn for the discredit brought upon our profesfior, and yet at the same time remember, that the foun. dation of God flandeth sure *.”
The zealous preachers, whom we are here contemplating, continued their progress. At Antioch in Pisidia, (a different town and far distant from the Antioch before mentioned) they attended the public worship of the Jewish fynagogue on the fabbath-day. the usual service, being permitted to address the people, Paul arose and spake in a moft animated manner, declaring and enforcing the grand truths of the Gofpel. To impress their minds in favour of his doctrine, he began with explaining some of the divine dispensations towards their ancestors, particularly in promising the Saviour, and gradually preparing them for his reception. He then proceeded to exhibit Jefus as the Christ, who had been predicted. He represented him as despised and rejected by the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and there most injuriously suffering the death of the cross. But he naintained, that the whole of these transactions had occurred agreeably to their own fcriptures, and that according to express prophecies, which they themfelves acknowledged, Jesus had been raised from the grave, and proved to be the very Saviour, whom they professed to look for. He folemnly entreated them to confider that full and free redemption, which was proposed to every believer, and warned them, by a tremendous denunciation, not to reject the gracious offer. Let us learn from the Apostle's sermon to be thankful for the clear light of the Gospel, with which We are favoured.
“Unto Us is the word of this falvation sent.” But do we truly understand its import? or, do we cordially submit to the terms? O let us beware, left we come under the condemnaom 2 Tim. ii. 19.
tion of the despisers, who shall perish with aggravated ruin! What was the effect of Paul's address ?
The generality of the congregation appear not to have been properly impressed: but certain Gentiles, who were present, requested that they might have an opportunity, on the following fabbath, of hearing the lame truths enforced. Many of the Jews, also, and proselytes to their religion, after the dismiffion of the affembly, accompanied Paul and Barnabas, who in their private exhortations endeavoured to perfuade them to persevere in a steadfast attachment to the Gofpel. On the subsequent fabbath, the immense crowds of people, who were collected, excited the envious displeasure of the Jews: and accordingly, they began to oppose and blaspheme the doctrine delivered. Not discouraged, however, but rather animated by the violence
of these objectors, Paul declared, that, though the first offer of mercy had been tendered to them, yet upon their refusal the invitation would be given to the Gentiles. Many of the latter defcription rejoiced at the intimation, and, through the rich and lovereign grace of God, embraced the Christian faith. From them, likewise, the truth of God was disseminated throughout all the neighbouring country:
The success was great; but that very circumstance rendered the adversáries more ferious; and a formidable hoit of perfecutors conspired together. In consequence, Paul and his beloved associate were forcibly driven from the place. Yet, even under that levere storm, the fincere converts remained unfhaken, and experienced a season of peculiar happiness. While their enemies raged and threatened, " the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghoft."
Surely, that violence is not to be dreaded, how extreme soever it may be, which cannot prevent us from receiving the lively comforts of religion, and
which may have a tendency to promote them in our souls. If only, like the Chriftians at Antioch, we be favoured with an abundant measure of inward peace and consolation from the divine Spirit, we shall not be greatly moved by the vehemence and menaces of opposers. Wherever the Gospel meets with any signal success, it may be expected to produce contentions and separations among those, who were before 'united. It draws forth from many persons that cnmity of the heart against real godliness, , which had been concealed, and 'covered perhaps with the garb of piety. Among the perfecutors were devOU's as well as honourable women: and frequently, those, who have made a shew of fanctity, and been admired on that account, are the first to raise objections. Many, also, among ourfelves, like those of old, are disgusted with the large congregations, which generally attend the zealous preachers of the word of God, especially when those congregations confift chiefly of the poorer fort. That, which ought to be matter of rejoicing, excites envy and displeasure. Let those, however, who labour in the Gospel, be content to follow the steps of the Apostles,“ by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true *.”
Paul and Barnabas departed from Antioch, and upon quitting the place shook off the dust of their feet, as a testimony against the unbelieving inhabitants, agreeably to the directions of Jesus to his difciples t. Thence they proceeded to Iconium, and there opened their message with remarkable success I. In that city they continued for a considerable time, and with great courage declared the truth of God, which He was pleased to confirm by various miracles, and to make effectual to the conversion of many persons. But a furious opposition was raised
2 Cor. vi, 8.
+ Mar, vi 11.
| Acts xiv. 1, &c.
against then, exa Ily similar to what they experienced at Antioch. They had numerous friends among the people ; bat others, by calumniating their characters and doctrine, prejudiced them in the estimation of the public, A party was formed, and a scheme laics in which the men of chief power were engaged, to harass and by violent death destroy these new preachers. They, however, being apprized of the design, made their escape to Lystra, and both there and throughout the neighbourhood, no withstanding their past and the prospect of fresh dangers, they laboured. with unremitting ardour for the propagation of the Gospel.
At Lystra a poor cripple, who had been lame from his birth, received an initantaneous cure by the word of St. Paul. The miracle, being openly performed, excited general attention. But such was the blindness and wretched ftupidity of the people, that, instead of deliring to be instructed by these eminent teachers, they began to deify them, and actually prepared for them idolatrous sacrifices. With wild von ciferations they cried out, “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” Barnabas they called Jupiter, as being of the most stately appearance ; and Paul obtained the title of Mercury, because he was the principal speaker.
This circumstance could not but be diftrefling to them, who fought no vain applause, and wished to direct the regard of all to their Lord and Master. They were struck with horror at the offer of divine honours, and seemed to feel more pain on that account, than for their feverest perfecutions. They rent their clothes, in abhorrence of the profaneness, san among the multitude with peculiar eagerness, reproved them for their folly in worshipping men of the faine infirmities with themselves, and exhorted them to turn from such senseless practices to the service of the living God, the Creator and Preserver of heaven and earth.