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effects them through my hands; and so commands you to "repent and believe the gospel."
The particular miracle which follows is an example. It had exactly the effect recorded in the book of Samuel. As there "the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel," so here we read that when this was known, fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.
13. Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.3
14. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.
15. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
16. And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
17. And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus: and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.
18. And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.
19. Many also of them which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men:
3 Exorcists. That class of persons to which our Lord alluded, when he asked of the Jews, "If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out?" These, seeing the effect of Paul's use of the name of Jesus, adjured the evil spirits in the same name, but with none of the same faith. Compare Matt. viii. 29.
and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
20. So mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed.
For a while, some of those who had been convinced by Paul's doctrine, and by the signs attending it, still adhered to their heathen practices. The proofs which they now saw of the Spirit of God working with Paul were too strong to permit this longer. It was weak faith which permitted it even for a day. A sudden and appalling miracle increased their faith: either made assurance surer, or the impression stronger and so prepared them for the sacrifice of present interests which was required, if they meant to be "faithful to the Lord." The truth was irresistibly brought before their minds, "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” So they confessed, and showed their deeds: many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men. Utterly destroyed the instruments of an ungodly practice, in the same manner as Moses utterly destroyed the molten image which the Israelites had set up for worship. It was not merely cast aside, or disfigured, but " ground to powder :" as these books were burned, that no relic might remain, no seed of evil which might hereafter spring up and breed corruption. Had they retained the books, there would be danger. The heart is deceitful, and must not be trusted within sight of its temptation.
But might not the books be sold? The price of them was fifty thousand pieces of silver: and whatever might be the value of the coin, the sum must
A A 2
be considerable.* Still they must not be sold. Whatever it was sinful for these converts to keep, it would be equally sinful for others to possess and use. Here, therefore, was a case which illustrates our Lord's parable: "If thine hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee. If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee." However dear the practice, however valuable the possession which leads thee to offend against God, cast it from thee, if thou art in earnest "seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness." As Zaccheus did, when renouncing at one resolve what we must suppose to have been his former habits, he devoted half his goods to the poor, and restored fourfold whatever he had wrongly made his own.
"If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and come follow me; and thou shalt have treasure in heaven."5 Such was the test proposed to one, who seemed to aspire towards eternal life: but his faith failed: he "went away sorrowing," and clung to his possessions. These at Ephesus had stronger faith-they bore the test-they brought the books which had been their means of gain, and burnt them before all
It was the "new creature" 6 formed within their hearts. It was the new world opened before them:
If the coin was a drachma, the sum would amount to about fifteen hundred pounds; if a shekel, to about seven thousand.
5 Matt. xix. 21.
6 2 Cor. v, 17.
the new object to be chiefly valued, and first secured. All other things, however dear before, now lost their value in comparison.
In this way we ought to judge of the sincerity, the reality of our faith. Is it to us "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen?" Does it make us act as we should act, if heaven and hell were open to our sight?
The first belief of these Ephesians had not been thus effectual. They kept their unlawful books, and continued their curious arts, as Rachel, though married to Jacob, secretly retained her national idols. When their faith was strengthened and confirmed, it compelled them to renounce their arts and destroy their books of sorcery. And it is not till faith has this effect, of bringing every desire and habit into obedience to Christ, that we dare to call it real, or effectual to salvation. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin." & cannot allow in himself any known or wilful sin, "because he is born of God."
7 Heb. xi. 1.
8 1 John iii. 9.
OPPOSITION EXCITED AT EPHESUS.—a. d. 59.
ACTS xix. 21-41.
21. After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying,' After I have been there, I must also see Rome.
22. So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season.
23. And the same time there arose no small stir about
24. For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen ;
25. Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth:
26. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods which be made with hands:
27. So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set
1 Cor. xv. 23.
22 Tim. iv. 20. Rom. xvi. 22.
3 Supposed, rather, to be silver medals of the magnificent temple of Diana, which were purchased by travellers visiting it.