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mantles, in token of that mixture of indignation and sorrow with which they beheld this strange abuse of a miracle wrought to destroy that idolatry which from thence they took occasion to practise; and, in this moving and expressive manner, they ran in among the multitude, crying out with the greatest earnestness, Why do ye offer these honours to us? for we are men, subject to the same infirmities as yourselves, and are come for this express purpose, to teach you the worship of that God who is the only Creator of heaven and earth, and who has long endured your idolatrous practices; but never left himself without witness, so reguiating the seasons as to supply you with the comforts of life. Saying these things, they did with difficulty restrain the people from paying them divine honours.
This is an humiliating picture of human weakness; but it is not finished until we observe, that these very men who thus strove to raise Paul and Barnabas to the rank of deities were, a little time after, so incensed against them through the malignity of the Jews, that they stoned the former of these illustrious ministers; and, supposing him to be dead, dragged him out of the city, and left him to be meat for the fowis of heaven. But as the disciples were gathered about him, with a view of performing the last office of affection to him, in bearing him to his funeral with proper regard, to their unspeakable surprize, they found him so restored by the power of Christ, that he immediately rose up as in perfect health; and his bruises were so healed, that he entered into the city again; and was not only able to walk about it, but the next day found that he was capable of undertaking a journey; and departed with Barnabas to Derbe, a city of Lycaonia, on the borders of Cappadocia, as they did not think it convenient to proceed in their progress to Galatia, Phrygia, or any more distant province. And having preached the gospel at Derbe, to the inhabitants of that populous city, and made a considerable number of disciples there, they trod back the road they had taken, and returned first io Lystra again, and then to Iconium and Antioch in Pisidia, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue stedfast in the faith, seeing that through great tribulation we must enter the regions of eternal felicity. Having ordained elders in every church, and committed them to God by fasting and prayer, they returned to Antioch through Pisidia and Pamphylia. On their arrival at Antioch, they collected together the church, and related what they had experienced of the blessing of the Lord attending their labours, a narration which we have no reason to doubt filled the minds of the disciples with joy and gladness.
It will appear surprizing to such as have not well considered the depravity of the human heart, that so soon after the first propagation of the gospel, while the apostles were yet living, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit possessed by a great number of disciples, men should have gone forth from Judea, and sought to persuade the newly converted Gentiles that, notwithstanding all that Paul and Barnabas had taught them, they could not be made partakers of salvation unless they submitted to the circumcision of Moses. As much dissension prevailed upon this occasion, it was determined by the church at Antioch to send the two holy men whom we have just mentioned to consult with the apostles and elders at Jerusalem, as being of the longest standing in the Christian faith. After much consultation, it was at length determined, that no other burden should be laid upon the Gentiles, than that they should abstain from meats offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from fornication. It has been controverted among the moderns, whether the apostolical precept to abstain from blood is to be understood as only temporal and occasional, a sort of accommodation to the weakness of the Jewish converts, or perpetual, founded on moral principles, and consequently still obligatory. The former opinion is the most prevalent; but the
advocates of the latter assert, that blood is prohibited, because it tends to make mensavage; that the prohibition is joined to that of fornication, which is an acknowledged immorality; and that God has enjoined abstinence from blood upon all Christians, in order to manifest his supreme power over all their enjoyments. Be thie as it may; the Christians of Antioch were greatly delighted, both by the agreeable nature of these decrees, and the profitable exhortations of Judas and Silas, two prophets who had come down with Paul and Barnabas from Jerusalem.
After a considerable time had elapsed, Paul, who had an ardent zeal for the propagation of the gospel, proposed to his companion Barnabas that they should visit the infant churches, and inquire what was their present condition. Barnabas was very ready to undertake the journey; but was desirous to take with him John Mark, his nephew, who had deserted them on a former occasion. Paul, however, entertaining a different opinion, after debating the matter a little too warmly, they agreed to take separate courses, Barnabas sailing to Cyprus, and Paul proceeding with Silas, through Syria and Cilicia, into Asia Minor.
At Lystra, they found a very exemplary young man, who afterwards became one of the apostles' most active and able assistants, Timothy, the son of one Eunice, believing Jewess, but of a Grecian father. He had been carefully educated in the knowledge of the scriptures; but as he had never been regularly initiated into the Jewish religion, Paul himself performed upon him the rite of circumcision, that he might satisfy the clamours of the Jews, who were numerous in that neighbourhood. Taking Timothy then into his company, be visited the different churches which had newly been formed, and delivered to them the decrees of the council at Jerusalem, to keep as an invaluable treasure. They had the pleasure to see, wherever they went, that the churches were continually becoming more established in the faith, as well as increasing in numbers. Their purpose, at setting out, was to preach the gospel in such parts of the lesser Asia as they had not before visited; but they found themselves hindered by their divine guide from following any such a plan, and were commanded by a vision to come over into Macedonia, and bestow a portion of their labours on the inhabitants of Europe. Therefore, sailing from Troas, they came with a straight course to the island of Samothracia, which lies near the Hellespont, and the next day to the celebrated port of Neapolis, on the Thracian shore, near the borders of Macedonia; and, landing there, proceeded from thence to Philippi, a city of the first division of Macedonia, and a Roman colony.
During their residence at Philippi, they regularly attended divine worship at a place near the river side, where the Jews, who were mostly women, were accustomed to assemble. Once, as they were going to this oratory, or praying place, they were met by a girl, who, being under the influence of an evil spirit, practised fortune-telling ; and, by that means, brought much profit to her owners; for she was a slave. This unhappy creature, when she saw Paul and his company, followed them, crying out, that these men were the servants of the most high God, and teach us the way of salvation. As she continued this practice several days, Paul was grieved lest it should be a stratagem of the devil to bring reproach upon the good cause, and therefore commanded the impure spirit to leave his abode. The masters of the girl, vexed that their profits were gone, apprehended Paul and Silas, and charged them before the magistrates with seeking to overturn the established religion, and to introduce customs which no Roman might lawfully observe. The magistrates, more hastily than became their character, rent off the clothes of the accused, and commanded them to be first severely beaten, and then committed to prison, and their feet made fast in the stocks, an engine of punishment much more painful than what we now call by the same name.
ever, neither the danger with which they were threatened, nor the ignominy and pain which they then endured, could prevent them from expressing their holy joy in such loud songs of praise, that they were overheard by their fellow-prisoners. While they were thus engaged, the earth was suddenly convulsed, the foundations of the prison were shaken, the doors flew open of themselves, and every man's bands were instantly unloosed, and fell to the ground. Awakened by the noise, the jailor arose to see if all were safe; and, finding that the prison-doors were open, after a moment's reflection on the awful responsibility of his situation, drew his sword, with intent to terminate his life, a practice frequent among the Romans in cases of extreme emergency. Paul, to whom the Holy Spirit, probably, communicated the intelligence of the jailor's design, loved his enemy, and therefore loudly exclaimed, Do thyself no harm, for we are all here, and none of us will take the opportunity of escaping while the hand of God is working thus awfully around us. Upon this he called to his servants to bring their lights; and, springing forward in the greatest agitation, fell prostrate at the feet of Paul and Silas, beseeching them to inform him of the way of salvation. They answered, that immediately ou believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, not only himself, but all his family should be saved; and began instantly to explain the blessed truths of our religion to their astonished audience. The grace of God was with them, the hearts of their hearers were changed, the jailor and his family were baptized, the wounds of the apostles were washed, and they all spent the remainder of the night in a continued emotion of thankfulness and joy. In the morning, the magistrates, hearing that they were Roman citizens, besought them to leave the city quietly, and forget the injury they had sustained; and they, having comforted and exhorted the disciples, departed in peace.
When Paul and Silas had quitted Philippi in this honourable manner, they went forward in their progress; and, taking their journey westward, through Amphipolis. and Apollonia, which were likewise considerable cities of Macedonia, they came to the celebrated Thessalonica, a city which lay near the coast of the Ægean sea, where the Roman governor held his residence, and where there was also a synagogue of the Jews. In this place of worship, the apostle Paul, for three successive sabbath-days, preached the gospel to his countrymen, and was the means of converting a number of them, and many more of those devout Greeks who had been accustomed to worship the God of Israel. Their unbelieving countrymen, however, raised the most violent opposition against them, and accused the apostle and his company, and Jason, at whose house they lodged, of setting up another king in opposition to Cæsar. These rulers proceeded with more mildness than those of Philippi; and when the apostles could not be found, took security of Jason, and his companions, and let them go.
Paul and Silas, being sent away by their brethren in the night, went to the neighbouring city of Berea, where they preached the gospel with great success both to the Jews and the Greeks. The former are remarked for their candour, and the diligence with which they searched the scriptures, to see whether the predictions which were contained in the Old Testament were fulfilled in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At length, however, such of the Jews as had not received the gospel were excited to so strong an opposition, as rendered it proper that the apostle should immediately depart for Athens, whither he was followed in a little time by Silas and Timothy.
At Athens, the attention of Paul was principally excited by the idolatrous practices of the Gentiles. He therefore held various disputations with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, which terminated in a general invitation to declare his sentiments publicly at Areopagus, or Mars-hill, a place where the court of the Areopagites used
to assemble. In his discourse which he there delivered, he mentions an altar which had this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. The probable account of the origin of this altar, the existence of which is attested by Lucian, is the following; In the time of Epimenides, a celebrated philosopher, who lived about six hundred years before Christ, there was a terrible pestilence at Athens; in order to avert which, when none of the deities to whom they sacrificed appeared able or willing to help them, Epimenides advised them to bring some sheep to the Areopagus, and, letting them loose there, to follow them till they lay down, and then to sacrifice them to the God near whose temple or altar they might be. Now it seems probable, that Athens not being then so full of these monuments of superstition as afterwards, these sheep lay down in places where none of them were near, and so occasioned the rearing what the historian calls anonymous altars, each of which had the inscription, To the unknown God, meaning thereby the deity, whoever he were, that had sent the plague. One of these altars, however, repaired, remained tili the time of Paul; and as the true God was, no doubt, the author of the distemper, gave just occasion to the apostle to say, that he decla ed that Deity whom the Athenians ignorantly worshipped. Proceeding in his discourse, he treated of the works and perfections of the Almighty, and shewed how he could not be justly compared to any image of silver, gold, or stone, graven by art or men's device. To confirm these observations, he quoted a line from Aratus, a poet who wrote in Greek, and was a native of Cilicia, Paul's native province, as well as in an antient hymn to Jupiter written by Cleanthes. He was heard with patience till he treated of the resurrection from the dead; when some openly scoffed, while others proposed to allow him a second hearing. He gathered, however, several disciples, among whom the most celebrated was Dionysius the Areopagite.
Removing to the flourishing city of Corinth, Paul found two agreeable and useful companions, Aquila, a Jew of Pontus, and his wife Priscilla, two eminently religious persons, who had recently left Italy in consequence of the decree of Claudius Caesar, who had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome. With these Paul wrought at their occupation of tent-makers, whose business it was to make tents or pavilions of linen or skins, articles which were much in quest, not only among soldiers and travellers, but others, in the hotter seasons of the year. Paul had been instructed in that art; as it was usual for those of the Jews who had the most learned education to be brought up to some mechanical employment, for the amusement of their leisure hours, and to provide a resource against any unforeseen exigency. In this city. he preached with success both to Jews and Greeks, so as to lay the foundation of a flourishing church. He was delivered from persecution by the temperance of Gallio, the proconsul, who wisely determined that a magistrate had no business to interfere concerning men's private religious opinions. During the apostle's residence of eighteen months in this city, he is believed to have written the two epistles to the Thessalonians, and that to the Galatians.
The first epistle to the Thessalonians is supposed to have been written either in the latter part of the year fifty-one, or in the beginning of the year fifty-two, corresponding to the twelfth and thirteenth years of the emperor Claudius Cæsar. The apostle's design in the epistle was, in general, to confirm the Thessalonians in their adherence to the Christian faith, and to engage them to make still greater advances in religion, and become yet more eminent in every branch of the Christian temper. In pursuance of this design, having joined with himself Timothy and Sylvanus, or Silas, who had assisted him in establishing the church at Thessalonica, he expresses his great satisfaction with the sincere and exemplary profession of the Thessalonian Christians. [ch. i. 1..4.] With the fifth verse, in the opinion of Dr. Macknight, commences a regular demon
stration of the divine original of the Christian religion. This is proved by four arguments: 1. That many and great miracles were wrought by the preachers of the gospel, professedly for the purpose of demonstrating that they were commissioned by God to preach it to the world. [ch. i. 5.. 10.] 2. That the apostles and their assistants, by preaching the gospel, brought upon themselves every where all mannet of present evils, without obtaining the least worldly advantage, either in possession or in prospect that in preaching this new doctrine, they did not accommodate it to the prevailing inclinations of their hearers, nor encourage them in their vices, or use any base arts to obtain belief, but both preached and acted suitably to the character of missionaries sent from God. [ch. ii. 1..13.] The apostle then answers the objection which some might bring against the truth of the Christian miracles, taken from the unbelief of the Jews in Judea, and their persecuting Jesus and his disciples.. [ch. ii. 14..20.] Another objection which might be urged against the preachers of the gospel, namely, for not delivering themselves from persecution by their miraculous powers, is answered in chapter iii. 1..4. The answer of a third objection which might have been urged against Paul, on the ground of his not loving the Thessalonians, occupies the remainder of the third chapter. 3. That the first preachers of the gospel delivered to their disciples, from the very beginning, precepts of the greatest strictness and holiness; so that, by the sanctity of its precepts, the gospel is shewed to be a scheme of religion every way worthy of the true God, and highly beneficia! to mankind. [ch. iv. 1..12.] In this part of the epistle, the apostle takes great pains to exhort his disciples to the practice of chastity, industry, and decency. 4. That Jesus, the author of our religion, was declared to be the Son of God, and the Judge of the world, by his resurrection from the dead: and that, by the same miracle, his own promise, and the prediction of his apostles, concerning his return from heaven to reward the righteous and punish the wicked, especially them who obey not the gospel, are rendered absolutely certain. [ch. iv. 13..18, v. Î..10.] The res mainder of the epistle is filled with various exhortations tending to the preservation of order, unanimity, and comfort, in the church, as well as the cultivating a Christian temper. [ch. v. 1Ï....28.]
From the matters contained in the second epistle, it appears, that the messenger. who carried Paui's first letter to the Thessalonians gave him, when he returned, a particular account of their affairs [see 2. Thes. iii. 11.]; and, among many other things, informed him that many of them thought the day of judgment was to happen in that age; because, in his letter, the apostle seemed to insinuate that he was to be living on the earth at the coming of the Lord. [1 Thes. iv. 15.] We who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord. [verse 17.] Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up. [chap. v. 4.] But ye are not in darkness, so as that day should, like a thief, lay hold on you. [verse 6.] Therefore let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober. The same person also informed the apostle, that such of the Thessalonians as thought the coming of Christ and the end of the world at hand, were neglecting their secular affairs, in the persuasion that all business of that sort was inconsistent with the care of their souls: that certain false teachers among the Thessalonians, pretended to have a revelation of the Spirit, importing that the day of judgment was at hand that others affirmed, that they were sent by the apostle to declare the same things by word of mouth: nay, that a forged letter had been handed about in Thessalonica as from him, to the same purpose. An error of this kind being exceedingly prejudicial to society, it was necessary to put a stop to it inmediately; and the rather, that, being imputed to Paul, it was utterly subversivo of his apostolical character and inspiration. The state, therefore, of the Thessalonians