Abbildungen der Seite

St. Paul did not continue long at Thessalonica; but the fruits of his labours were glorious and lasting. His two Epiftles to the church in that place, evidently shew that the Gospel prevailed and triumphed in the midst of opposition. He speaks of the Christians there in higher terms, than of any other society. He thus writes; « Our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance : having received the word in much afiction, with joy of the Holy Ghost, ye were enfamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia *." How are the hands of ministers strengthened, and their hearts comforted, when they can give such an account of the people under their charge!

His letters, likewise, prove, how great was his tenderness among the Thessalonians, how strong his affection for them, how irreproachable his conduct. It should seem, that with difficulty he procured common provisions; or that he refused the offers of fupport from his friends, for the fake of recommending the Gofpel by his disinterested spirit, and exhibiting a pattern of diligence. He “ did not eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travel NIGHT AND DAY, that he might not be chargeable to any of them t." Sometimes he received relief from the Philippians : but this he neither sought nor defired *. What an example of generosity, patience, and self-denial, springing from the most exalted mo. tiyes! Such were the lessons, which our Apostle had learnt at the feet of Jesus g. Are we thus instructed? What have we been enabled to do, to give up, or endure, in the service of Christ? Justly may we be ashamed to mention our own difficulties, when we read of those in St. Paul's history,

1 Theff. i. 5–7

+ 2 Theff. iii. 8. § Phil. iv. 11, 12

Phil. iv. 16, 17.


After his departure from Theslalonica, he filed to the neighbouring city of Berea, and there, also, opened his commillion in the synagogue of the Jews. The appearances were promiling: the people discovered a much nobler difpofition than the Thessalonians. They were willing to hear, and with great diligence and seriousness compared the Apostle's doctrines with the scriptures; in consequence of which many embraced the Christian faith. Those, who reject it, are generally too indolent or too bigotted, to give it a fair examination : and yet, with much arrogance, they call themfelves free-thinkers.

But the labours of St. Paul were foon closed at Berea. He was followed by the ftorın, which had been raised at Thesalonica. The Jews pursued him with indignation, and stirred up a violent commotion. It, therefore, became neceflary for him once more to consult his fafety by flight; though Silas and Timothy, as being less obnoxious, ventured to continue there for a time, that they might carry on the work of God. Thus the opposition, as before, contributed to a more extensive propagation of the Gospel, and Satan defeated his own purpose. The unbelief and resistance of some were the means of sending fulvation to many others.

Paul was conducted to Athens, a city the most cea: lebrated for the study of philosophy and all polite literature. But, even here, profound ignorance of God and stupid idolatries prevailed, which evidently proved the Apostle's affertion, that the world by wisdom knew not God*.” His mind was deeply affected by viewing the gross superfiitions of men, who boasted of their superior discernment. Though he poffefled a fine taite and improved understanding, he attended not to the learned curiosities and disputations of the place, which as a scholar he might have relished. But he

* i Cor. i. 21.

He was,

felt a strong desire to correct the fatal errors universally received, and to diffuse the knowledge of his God and Saviour. To this end he bore his teftimony in various parts of that renowned city. His sentiments, however, suited not the notions of proud philosophers. They despised him as a triling, contemptible fellow, a mere babbler, who had nothing to offer, deserving of their notice. Others represented him as an advocate for certain foreign deities, when he preached Jesus and the resurrection. therefore, summoned to answer for himself, and give an account of his doctrine before the high court, which assembled on the famous hill of Areopagus.

In such a formidable situation our Apostle stood forth to declare the grand principles of true religion. His address upon that occasion was masterly, and admirably adapted to the circumstances and character of the audience. He began with observing their uncommon attention to the worship of invisible beings, and, from a view of their devotional rites, particularly remarked an altar, inscribed To THE UNKNOWN GOD. While they, therefore, evidently confessed their ignorance, he avowed himself ready to give them instructions, in this important subject. He then insisted on some of the perfećtions of that God, whom they knew not, the God of creation and the God of providence; and proved, by an appeal to his works and to the confeffions of their own poets, that He is the maker, supporter, and governor of the world. From these principles he argued with great strength against their idolatrous notions and practices. He affirmed, that this God had long borne with the folly of men, and suffered them to follow their own devices; but that repentance was now universally and indispensably required by the authority of Heaven. He further enforced the duty by the awful confideration of a day of future retribution and general judgment, of which,


he declared, the Lord God had given an affurance by the resurrection of the Saviour from the dead.

There was a peculiar wisdom and dignity in the Apoftle's address : but it should feem, that his audience interrupted him, just as he was entering on the most important topics. Conceited of their own eru. dition, they refused him a serious and patient hearing ; and, as it' frequently happens, they rejected with a contemptuous fieer what they could not confute. Amongst many, however, who made light of his doctrine, there were some, who believed and thewed a strong attachment to him ; and, of these, one or two of considerable rank.

It is supposed, that there was scarcely any place, in which St. Paul met with so little fucceis, as in this celebrated city, among these accomplihed scholars and acute philosophers. Justly may we cry out, « Where is the wise ? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world *?” In other


and countries, many persons, admired for their fagacity and superior attainments in learning, have been among the bittereft opposers of the Gospel. And no worder, since this syitem strikes at the root of cur pride, and can find admillion with those only, who are willing to become fools, that they may be wise t. It is no argument against Chriftianity, that it was rejected by these vain pretenders to science at Athens, which niay be readily accounted for. But it is a ftrong evidence in its favour, that Paul was not afraid to propose and maintain it in such a philofophic city, and that some were brought over to his side.

Let us enquire, Who among ourselves have cordi. ally submitted to the faith of Christ? It is worthy the acceptation of the highest ranks: but if you, who full an exalted place in society, are disposed to embrace

* i Cor. i. 20.

fii. 13.



the Gospel, like Dionysius and Damaris at Athens, how great are your obligations to that God, who has removed your prejudice and subdued your pride! Are there not some, who, with a fhew of wisdom, are obliged to confess, that they worship an unknown God? We entreat you to liden to those, who would declare him unto you. Your past times have been « times of ignorance,” notwithstanding a superstitious performance of the formalities of devotion: O praise the Lord, who has been patient and longsuffering; and now hear his voice, for he calleth you to repentance! We remind you of the final advent of the Saviour, and the folemnities of the universal judgment. These things are too important to be dismisled with a freer. O consider thein with fixed attention : believe, and be saved !

From Athens our Apostle proceeded to Corinth *. This large and Aourithing city, which abounded in wealth and magnificence, was infamous, even to a proverb, for its general spirit of diffipation. It might feem, therefore, an unlikely place for the reception of the Gospel: but the ministers of Christ must “preach to every creature," depending upon God to make his own word effectual. When He is pleased to send it forth as “ the Rod of his strength t,” it accomplishes great events. It is a mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds 1." At Corinth a numerous society of Christians was gathered, as we may learn from the two Epistles addrefled to that church ; and some of these had once been of an abandoned character.

Here he met with two pious persons, Aquila and his wife Priscilla, who had lately been banilhed from Rome for their religion. With them he took up his abode, and laboured for his support, as a tent-maker; for they had all been instructed in the same occupation.

* Acts xviii. 1, &c. VOL. IV.

1 2 Cor. x. 4.

* Psal. cx. 2.



« ZurückWeiter »