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able, but will with the temptation also make a way that we may be able to bear it."7
Certainly we should set one object before us, and keep it constantly in view, that we finish our course with joy. And the way to attain this, is to testify the gospel of the grace of God, if not as Paul by his words, as Paul by his life and character. Then shall none of those things move us, which might otherwise disturb or harass. They cannot hinder our finishing our course with joy, if they do not divert us from it. Nay, they may even further our progress. Temptations, when resisted and overcome, add strength to the soul; leave it more settled than before. Tribulations past are an earnest of future support. Every turn in the course, when passed successfully, leaves the way shorter, and brings the prize nearer: till at last the Christian may say, "I have finished my course; I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of life, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me at that day."
PAUL'S DISCOURSE CONTINUED.-A. D. 60.
ACTS xx. 25-31.
25. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.
26. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.
27. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
In the reign of Ahab over Israel, when he and Jehoshaphat were conferring together as allies, a question arose as to the expediency of making war against the king of Syria. The prophets were consulted. And they said, (1 Kings xxii. 12,) " Go up to Ramoth Gilead, and prosper: for the Lord will deliver it into the hands of the king." This they spoke without inquiry of the Lord. They spoke what they knew their king would desire to hear. And when Ahab perished in the battle, it could not be said of them, that they were pure from his blood. This could be truly spoken of Micaiah alone, who said to Ahab, "I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd" and who publicly proclaimed, "If thou
1 xviii. 6.
return at all in peace, the Lord hath not spoken by me. Hearken, O people, every one of you." Thus he took them all to record that day, that he was pure from the blood of Ahab.
Paul here affirms the same concerning himself. As when he addressed the Jews at Corinth, the awful words of Ezekiel again occur to him. Had he "warned the wicked to save his life?" Had he "warned the righteous man that he sin not?" 2 Then, and not otherwise, he was pure from the blood of all men: he had "delivered his soul." He calls them all to witness that he had done this: for he had not shunned to declare unto them the whole counsel of God. He had kept back nothing that was profitable unto them.
Considering him, as he was, "an ambassador of Christ," sent to the rebellious subjects of their heavenly King, there are two ways in which he might have been unfaithful. He might hesitate to declare, in words of sufficient plainness, their guilt and danger. He might scruple to say to the wicked, "Thou shalt surely die." He might scruple to say to his self-righteous countrymen, that the Jew and the Gentile were alike guilty before God.
Then, on the other hand, he might fail in conveying the offer of the King's forgiveness. He might keep back the message of mercy; that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them :" he might have failed to pray them in Christ's stead" with due earnestness, "Be ye reconciled unto God." 3
2 See Ezek. iii. 18-21.
3 2 Cor. v. 19, 20.
But now he takes them to record, that he had not failed in any part of his commission: he had not shunned to declare unto them the whole counsel of God that as "by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous :" "that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."4
And now he impresses upon those whom he was leaving as teachers and rulers of the flock, that they watch over their charge as men "who must give account:" as stewards whom God expected to find faithful.
28. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
29. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
30. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
The prayer of the Lord Jesus for his apostles whom he left to carry on the work which he had begun, was not that they should be "taken out of the world," but that they might be "delivered from the evil" of the world. They could not be free from danger and from trial. but they might be enabled to resist and overcome it. So Paul 5 John xvii. 15.
4 Rom. v. 19—21.
here looks forward to those evils which he knew must assail the church. There would be enemies from without: grievous wolves entering in, not sparing the flock; and there would be treachery at home of their own selves should men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them."6 Against all these the elders were to guard the church of God, which he had purchased with his own blood. He who "in the beginning was with God, and was God," had taken unto himself a mortal life, that he might give it "a ransom for many." O how does the richness of the price display the value of the purchased possession! The church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood! For we are not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."
In proportion to the price paid, is the importance and necessity of watching over the treasure. The pearl of great price must not be left unguarded. And so the apostle adds,
31. Therefore watch, and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
Such was his sense of the truths with which he was charged such his views of their inestimable
6 See 1 Tim. i. 20. 2 Tim. ii. 18. See also 2 Pet. ii. 1-3. 1 John ii. 18.
71 Pet. i. 18.