Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors]

termined to persevere in his purpose, only from a fupreme regard to the Saviour, whom he served. The sorrowful supplicants defifted, and with humble fubmiffion referred the event to God.

Does not a sense of our indolence and timidity cover us with shame, while we contemplate St. Paul's unwearied exertions and willingness to lay down Life itself in his Master's caufe ? Do we not value our friends, our ease, liberty, and safety, far more than the honour and favour of Chrift? If his love constrain us, in any measure as it did the Apostle, why do we betray so much hesitation and reluctance in pursuing the plainest path of duty, merely becaule certain difficulties seem to obstruct our proa gress?

St. Paul, then, arrived at his journey's end, and took up his abode at Jerusalem with Mnason, an old disciple. There he met with a cordial reception from the church; and, having seized the earliest opportunity of visiting St. James, he related to him, in the presence of all the elders, how the work of God had been carried on by his ministry among the Gentiles. His account excited their gratitude and joy; but they warned him, that, glorious as his fuc. cess had been, the strongest prejudices prevailed in his Jewish brethren against himn. It was generally understood, that he everywhere encouraged the Jews to neglect and forsake the Mosaic law. They advised him therefore, with the view of silencing objectors, to join himself publicly with four persons, who were bound by a particular vow to certain ritual observances, and to Lubmit to all the ceremonies, appointed for such a purpose. The Apostle complied, not through a finful fear, or a temporizing spirit, but in order that he might not wound any weak confciences, and, by conforming in matters merely ina different, that he might gain the more to the love and service of Christ.


Such was his condescending and tender regard to the infirmities and mistakes of others. But how culpable was that hasty and uncharitable disposition, by which many thousand believers were ready to take up an exception against a character so eminent and fo honoured as St. Paul! Shall we wonder, when we perceive something of the fame vehemence and bigotry among Christians in our own day? Yet, surely, we fhould lament, that, through misconception and rash judgment, they are frequently inclined to fufpect and condemn each other. And we ought to beware for ourselves, left we entertain or receive an unfavourable opinion of any one, without just ground:.

Paul had begun to comply with the ceremonial inftitutions in the temple; when suddenly a viclent tumult was raised by certain Jews from Afia, who with great impetuofity exclaimed against him, as an enemy to their nation and religion. By their base mifrepresentations the people were excited to such a degree of rage, that the whole city was thrown into confusion, and the Apostle exposed to imminent danger. They seized and beat him, and were actually meditating his death, when Lysias, the Roman officer, interposed with an armed body, and rescued him out of their hands. It was with extreme difficulty, even then, that he escaped their fury. At the command of the captain, the soldiers bound him, and conducted him as a prisoner and a malefactor into the castle, while the infatuated mob cried out, “ Away with him."

Are we not constrained to lament the contumelious usage and confinement of this eminent servant of Christ? We may be disposed to ask, why the Lord should permit those, who are dear to himself, to be so insulted and oppresied, and the most zealous advocates for his cause to be prevented from prosecuting their schemes of usefulness in his Church. But ala! we are short-fighted creatures, and should not


prefume to censure or comprehend the divine conduct. “ His way is in the sea, and his path in the great waters, and his footsteps are not known *.” Yet we are assured, that these very afflictions, which for a season cut off the Apostle from the public exercise of his ministry, eventually promoted the advancement of the Gospel to Our fears for the safety of the ark are groundless. Let us cheerfully leave the care of it to God, and commit ourselves and the concerns of all his people to his fovereign disposal. Whatever unfavourable or painful circumItances may arise, let us look in faith and prayer for a happy issue.

St. Paul was now in chains, but before he was committed to prison, he obtained permiffion of the captain to address the people in his own defence f. He began with declaring his extraction, education, and manner of life, and appealed to them who had known him, for a proof of his former hatred and violent persecution of the Gospel. He delivered a minute account of his conversion, of the Apostolie commission he had received from Christ to preach among the Gentiles, and of the injunction given him in a trance to depart from Jerusalem. He withed to continue in that city, expecting that his ministry would be particularly successful among those, who had been witnesses of his opposition to the faith. But Jesus, by his sovereign authority, commanded bim to carry the message of peace to the Heathens at a distance.

This open and ingenuous narrative of the Apostle feemed well calculated to impress the minds of the audience. His boldness in maintaining the Gospel before them, who had once known him as a blarphemer and a perfecutor, is a strong evidence of its truth. But, though they could not deny his alsertions, they were not convinced. The most ftriking facts, folid reasoning, and eloquent perfuafions, will not be sufficient to subdue the human heart, unless God hiinfelf put forth his power, and make ule of them for that purpose.

* Pral. lxxvii. 19.

Phil. i. 12-14

| Acts xxii. 1, &c


The Jews listened to the preacher, till he mentioned his mission to the Gentiles; but this they could not bear. Such was their contempt and has tred of all other people, that they concluded a teacher from Heaven would never be ient among the Hea-then nations. The pretenfion appeared to them lit. tle short of blafphemy. They thewed every mark of indignation and abhorrence, tore of their clo:hes, and cast dust into the air, crying out, “ Away with such a fellow from the earth; for it is not fit that he should live." Then indeed he was « made as the filth of the world and the off-fcouring of all things*. If we likewise ihould meet with the most injurious treatment, let us not wonder or complain, when we perceive with what outrageous violence this man of God was rejected.

The Roman captain secured him, and, not underftanding the ground of the opposition, supposing that he must have committed some great offence, commanded him to be examined by scourging, that a confession might be extorted. But Paul escaped the cruel torture, by pleading his privilege as a Roman citizen; and it should seem that the officer had ex. ceeded his authority in binding him. Lyfias, however, was desirous to obtain clearer information of the business, and therefore, on the day following, convened the great council of the Jews for the trial of the prisoner according to their particular customs. There, for the present, we leave him, arraigned before she Sanhedrim, the object of their profane derision

[blocks in formation]

and contemp, yet not afraid of their terror, nor ashamed of the name of Jesus, in whom he believed.

How much may we learn from this example ! When we look at his patient perfeverance in the service of Christ, and reflect on our own inactivity, weil may we cover our faces, and hide them in the dutt. How little are any of us doing, in comparison of this zealous Apoitle! And shall we not be animated, by a view of his conduct, to be more bold and vigorous, while we maintain our profession of the Golpel against all its opposers ? Liiten not to the fooliih representations of those, who would perfuade you, that all fervour in religion is hypocrisy, fanaticism, or madness, and that every thing, better than lifeless formality, is an unnecessary strictness, a weak scrupulofity, or a dangerous innovation. If you would be governed by tne fashionable principles of the age, you must keep at a distance from the leaft imitation of St. Paul, and, wherever you dilcover a resemblance of his fpirit, you must condemn, it as a ridiculous preciseness. You must give up all earnest contention for right doprines, and all the ardour of devotion, affirm that faith is nothing but fancy, and laugh at the mention of spiritual peace, and communion with God through the Holy Gholt, as a vain delusion. O how much better is it to suffer like the Apostle in defence of the truth, than thus to sacrifice conscience to intereft or reputation !

But, if you are the most lively, diligent, and useful members of the Church, the brightest ornaments of the Christian profeflion, you may learn from St. Paul to place no dependence on your own attainments. Like him, you ihould preserve a constant sense of your unworthiness, and ascribe all the excellency of your best principles and performances to the sanctifying influence of God's Spirit. When he considered, what talerts he pofleffed, and what an eminent station he filled, his hunible and devout acknowledgment was, “I am nothing :"

to not

« ZurückWeiter »