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worship the figure of a came into their minds to say,
man ;" and it never "is there not a lie
in my right hand?" This could only be, "because they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, and therefore he gave them over to a reprobate mind,"3 and suffered them to walk in their own unhappy ways.
Even now, the natural heart does not incline towards God, but rather turns away from him, disclosed as he is to us by the light of his revealed word. We receive his bounties; we are willing to rely upon his providence; but where is the love, the fear, the reverence, the obedience which he demands? Men do not worship graven images, or make to themselves gods in the likeness of men : their vanities are not the vanities of the people of Lystra. But too often they serve and obey the living God as little as those heathen. They too “feed on ashes:" and they make no return to Him who does us good, and fills our hearts with food and gladness: "in whom we live and move and have our being."
The same gospel which Paul was preaching, must still produce, for it alone does produce, the effect which he desired. We have still constant proof that in any true or real sense there is no access to the living God, which made heaven and earth, except through "Jesus Christ whom he hath sent:" and that "no man knoweth the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.”4
See Is. xliv. 11-20.
3 Rom. i. 28.
* Matt. xi. 27.
PAUL'S DANGER AT LYSTRA.-THE DISCIPLES CONFIRMED IN THE FAITH.-A. D. 46.
ACTS xiv. 19-22.
19. And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.
"Once was I stoned," says St. Paul, in his epistle to the Corinthians, alluding to this occasion.' He speaks of "perils from his own countrymen, and perils from the heathen." Here both were united. The fickle multitude at Lystra, who but lately were scarce restrained that they had not done sacrifice" to Paul and Barnabas, now joined with the Jews to stone him.
Perhaps we wonder how they could be persuaded to this. But it is easy to persuade the ignorant. The people had seen an exercise of power, and been astonished. But their hearts had not been touched no moral change had been produced. And they would as readily believe that the miracle was wrought through the influence of evil spirits, or that some magical art had been exercised upon the cripple, as that "the gods had come down to them in the likeness of men."
+ Ch. xi. 25.
So having stoned Paul, they drew him out of the city, supposing that he had been dead. stronger hand had preserved him. Stephen was not designed for Paul. his work yet done.
The death of
20. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.
21. And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,
22. Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
We have here a sentence which ought not to be passed lightly over. The apostles evidently are not speaking of one age, or one place, or one set of Christians only; but lay it down as a general rule, that the life of a Christian is not a life of ease or tranquillity, or the way to the kingdom of God a way that has no difficulties or trials. Can it be otherwise? We are corrupt men, in a corrupt world and through this corruption we must pass to incorruption. There are and always will be tribulations which stand between us and the "narrow gate," which is the entrance of God's heavenly kingdom.
1. There is, first, the corruption of the heart. A thoughtless, ungodly person has no trouble on this ground, because he permits his evil inclinations to take their own way. But the Christian knows that either he must conquer these, or they
will destroy him. Unless he is led by the Spirit of God, he cannot be a child of God: and if he is led by the Spirit, he will subdue the works of the flesh; will" keep under his body, and bring it into subjection." But this is no easy task. "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit: and these are contrary the one to the other. There is a law in our members, warring against the law of our mind, and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin which is in our members." Now this is occasion of frequent grief and disappointment. The man finds that he is not what he wishes to be, what he strives to be, what he ought to be. Sins long mortified, still exist and rebel proud thoughts, sensual thoughts, covetous thoughts, malicious thoughts, still arise in his mind, and cast a stain upon his humility, his purity, his charity, his brotherly kindness. All this is tribulation to him; that his besetting sin still has so much power, still requires to be kept down with so strong a hand. Surely our Lord's words will justify us if we call this tribulation. For he compares the resisting a temptation to the plucking out a right eye, the overcoming an evil practice to the cutting off a right arm. And if there were any who could not understand this, I should much fear that they scarcely understood themselves. I should much fear that they had not felt the difficulty, because they had not set about the duty. No doubt, the difficulty varies; and is greatly increased when evil habits have been once indulged habits are far more obstinate than inclinations: and those are happiest, who soonest begin the work of self-*
denial. But begun it must be; and it must be carried on. Without pains and trouble men can no more conquer the evil which is in their hearts, than without exertion they can swim against a stream. And they must submit to such exertion, they must submit to all the pain and mortification which attend it, if ever they would enter into the kingdom of God.
2. Another source of tribulation to the pious Christian, arises from the example, the persuasion, the opposition, of the ungodly, who follow ways different from his.
Doubtless the apostles, when they uttered this sentence, were thinking of something more severe : alluded to that open persecution which the early Christians were forced to undergo: to those trials of "heavy mockings, yea moreover of bonds and imprisonment," with which God in different ages has permitted the faith of his people to be proved.
We may be thankful that we are exempt from such trials. But the Christian must not expect freedom from all tribulation of this kind. Even in these brighter days, he may find himself beset with sore temptations.
Such is the case with many who desire to be faithful servants of their Lord. Perhaps they are surrounded with scorners and scoffers, who reproach them "for righteousness' sake:" perhaps they are forced by the business of the world to consort with those who have no care either for their own souls or the souls of others.