Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

1

6 shall approve, by your letters, will I send to bring

your liberality to Jerusalem ; and if it be meet “ that I go alfo, they shall go with me." His reafon he states in another address to them, “ and we “ have sent with him, (Titus) the brother, whose “ praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches ; “ and not that only, but who was also chofen of the “ churches to travel with us, with this grace which “ is administered by us, to the glory of the Lord, " and declaration of your ready mind; avoiding " this, that any man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us, providing for honest things, not only in the fight of God, but also in the fight of men.—How remote from enthusiasm is such cool precaution as this?

And as he guarded his character, so neither did he neglect his fafety; true it is, indeed, that no reproaches, no dangers, no punishments, could deter him from preaching the gospel of Christ, when shame and

persecution were inevitable in discharging this sacred duty; yet it is equally clear, that he employed all innocent means which reason could suggest, consistent with that duty, to elude the rage of malignant bigotry —but he preached the gospel still.

To escape persecution he fled from Damascus,

e

2 Corin. viii. 18-21

f A&ts ix. 25.

from

from Antioch, from Iconium, from i Thessalonica ; to avoid being scourged, he pleaded his privilege as a Roman citizen. In a violent * tumult at Jerusalem, he preserved himself from instant death, by availing himself, with admirable presence of mind, of the contrariety of opinions which prevailed amongst the different parties of his assailants; for when he perceived that one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “ men and “ brethren I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee, “ for the hope and resurrection of the dead I am “ called in question;" and the scribes of the Pharifees arose and said, 16 we find no evil in this man; “ but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let “ us not fight against God.” Thus he gained time to obtain the protection of the civil power. With similar prudence he afterwards escaped the malignity of assassination, by appealing to the tribunal of Cæsar;

more than forty " Jews bound themselves by a “ curse, that they would neither eat nor drink, till “ they had killed Paul.” The apostle, on discover, ing the conspiracy, discloses it secretly to the chief captain, whose prisoner he then was, and by a secret removal escapes.

[ocr errors]

When a similar conspiracy was afterwards "re, newed, and the Jews requested Festus, the governor,

& Acts xiii. 50.
h Acts xiv. 16.

i Acts xvii. 14.
k Aets xxiii. 6,7. Acts xxiii 9. mActs xxiii. 12. "Acts xxv. 3.

to

to bring him back to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him, and Festus ° desires the apostle's compliance with this request; how admirably does he, in his reply, guard both his fafety and his character ? " I stand, (said he) at Cæsars judgment seat, “ where I ought to be judged; to the Jews have I " done no wrong, as thou very well knowest ; for if I “ have been an offender, or have committed any thing « worthy of death, I refuse not to die ; but if there “ be none of these things whereof these accuse me,

no man may deliver me unto them ; I appeal unto " Cæsar.” How contrary this to the artifice and conscious guilt of imposture on the one side, or the folly of enthusiasm on the other?

At Athens, ' a fimilar temper of mind is still more conspicuous in the conduct of the apostle ; there, when fummoned before the august court of Areopagus, to answer to an accusations of having set forth “ strange Gods," which their laws, pronounced a capital crime, mark his defence" an impostor, “ (says. Lord Littleton, speaking of this transaction)

an impostor would have retracted his doctrine to “ fave his life; an enthusiast would have lost his “ life without trying to save it by innocent means ; C St. Paul did neither the one nor the other; he " availed himself of an altar, inscribed to the un

0. Acts xxv. 9.

P Acts xvii. 16 to 34. Lyttleton on the conversion of St. Paul, p. 47, note.

" known

« known God, and pleaded, that he did not propose " the worship of any new God, but only explained “ to the people the nature and attributes of that un“ known Divinity, whom their government had al“ ready received;” Whom therefore ye ignorantly

worship, him declare I unto you ; God who made the world, and all things therein, in whom we live, " and move, and have our being." “ Thus he eluded « condemnation, without departing in the least “ from the truth of the gospel, or violating the 66 honour of his God; an admirable proof of the “ good sense with which he acted, and that there was

no mixture of fanaticism in his religion,”

[ocr errors]

It is further peculiarly worthy of remark, that in all these various trying situations, in which the apostle of the Gentiles was placed, we find him obfervant of those decorums of language, and those distinctions of rank, which the intercourse of society and the preservation of order require, but which the pride and violence of fanaticism almost always contemns and tramples on.

He is brought before kings and rulers, to bear testimony to the name of Jesus ;—we see him as at the tribunal of the Areopagus at Athens, fo also before the council of the chief priests at Jerusalem, before two different Roman governors, and especially before king Agrippa ; and to all he yields that tribute of external respect which their external situation de

manded,

manded, without departing in the least item from fincerity and truth, or debafing by any mean adulation, or unworthy compliance, the integrity of his character, and the honour of his God. Never does any peevish or passionate, any rude or contemptuous expression escape him. Once, and only once, an unmerited and wanton insult drew from him an indignant reproach against · Ananias, who, though he presided as his judge, commanded the infliction of the insult; but the moment he is reminded of the character which Ananias bore--the moment they that stood by faid, “ revilest thou God's high priest so ?” he apologizes and accounts for his warmth, “ brethren, I wist not that he was the high priest, « for it is written, thou shalt not speak evil of the “ rulers of thy people.”

And what is most remarkable, the testimony of history renders probable what the apostle infinuates, that Ananias was not in truth high priest ; but that in a period of anarchy, when the office was unfilled, he rafhly assumed that character, which by his infolence he disgraced. This single instance excepted, (if indeed thus circumstanced it constitutes an exception) the language and conduct of the apostle was uniformly temperate and decorous, as it was firm and dignified, naturally resulting from piety and so

9 Acts xxii. 2 to 6,

« ForrigeFortsæt »