Obrazy na stronie

stayed with them a week, he took of them a tender farewell, kneeling down with them upon the seashore, offering up their united supplications to the Lord, and mutually embracing each other. Having saluted the church at Ptolemais, Paul came to Cæsarea, where he stayed with Philip the evangelist, one of the seven deacons who were first solemnly set apart to this office by the apostles, and who had been driven from Jerusalem by the persecution of Saul, at the time when he was ravaging the church of God. Philip had first gone to Samaria, where he preached the gospel, and converted the officer of queen Candace, and afterwards had fixed himself at Cæsarea. What a consolation for the good man to receive into his house, as a friend and as a Christian, one who had formerly been the most cruel enemy both of Jesus Christ and his gospel!

It was indeed a happy family, since the four daughters of Philip were not only believers, but had also received the supernatural and miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost. Whilst there, Agabus, a prophet, who had come from Judea, in conformity with the oriental genius and the manner of the ancient prophets, by an outward symbol represented the afflictions which awaited the apostle. Taking Paul's girdle, he bound with it his own feet and hands, declaring that thus the apostle would be treated by the Jews at Jerusalem, and thus delivered at first to the Roman governor, and afterwards to Nero, the Roman emperor. His fellow travellers, as well as the Christians of Cæsarea, earnestly besought him to abandon the intention of going to Jerusalem : but no personal apprehensions could at all influence him. Not that he was insensible to the tears and entreaties of those to whom he was united by the ties of affection and the bonds of grace: on the contrary, his language displayed the most tender sensibility, as well as perfect resignation to the disposals of Divine Providence: “ What mean ye to weep, and to break my heart ? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” They sorrowfully desisted then from urging him, commending him to Divine Providence, and crying,

66 The will of the Lord be done." Let believers thus always remember that nothing occurs without the direction of God, and then the most painful events will lose their bitterness. Who should govern the world except he who created it? Can we wish a surer, a more affectionate guide? Departing immediately, they arrived at Jerusalem, A. D. 58, at the feast of Pentecost, eight years before the famous Jewish war, and took up their residence with Mnason, whose honourable character it is, that he was an - old disciple,” piety, and years uniting to render him venerable. In this city Paul had persecuted the Saviour in the persons of believers. He returns to it that he may show his homage to the Son of God, and give his nation a proof of the sincerity of his faith. Entering into the house of James, the apostle, Paul related to him and the other ministers present the success with which God had blessed his labours among the Gentiles. At this intelligence their hearts were filled with adoring thankfulness to their merciful God and their exalted Saviour. James however informed him, that though the Lord had so manifestly blessed his labours, there were many Jewish converts at Jerusalem who entertained strong prejudices against him. Attached to the ancient law, and zealous for the Mosaic ceremonies, they had heard with anger that wherever he had preached he had exhort

ed the Jews to renounce circumcision and the other ritual observances, and they now with uncharitable suspicions were watching his conduct. James therefore advised him, in order to prevent disturbances which might distract the church, to unite himself to four men, who had bound themselves by a vow to perform certain ceremonial observances, probably because of their deliverance from some peril, or the attainment of some remarkable blessing. The apostle complied with the advice, not from any personal fear, or a temporizing spirit: his whole history prevents such a supposition, but from a regard to the unity of the church, and from a desire not to offend the weaker brethren in things which were indifferent.

Having already begun to comply with the rites usual on such occasions, some Jews who had come from Asia, and probably had there opposed him, raised a violent tumult against him, called out to the other Jews for their assistance, represented him as every where propagating doctrines utterly subversive of the Mosaic law, and as profaning the holy temple. These misrepresentations highly exasperated the people. Paul was immediately seized by the populace, and they were about instantly to deprive him of life, when Lysias the Roman officer interposed with an armed body, and rescued him. Supposing, however, that he was a notorious malefactor, the governor ordered him, according to the prediction of Agabus, to be bound with two chains, while the furious multitude, panting for his blood, cried, “ Away with him!” and with difficulty were prevented by the soldiers from assaulting him.

While entering the castle Paul obtained permission to address the people. In the most candid and ingenuous manner he recounted to them his former history, appealed to themselves in proof of his former persecuting spirit, gave a minute account of his conversion, and of the commission given to him by the Saviour, to go and carry the gospel to the Gentiles. Hitherto the Jews had listened to him, but no sooner did he thus assert that the religious privileges which had been conferred on Israel were now to be granted to other nations, than with every mark of abhorrence, of contempt, and of fury, they rent their clothes, and cast dust in the air, as though he had blasphemed, and cried, “ Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live !"

Lysias, supposing from their rage that he was highly criminal, though not able to understand the nature of their accusations against him, commanded him to be brought into the castle, and scourged till a confession was extorted from him. The lictor was already binding him for this purpose, when Paul pleaded his privilege as a Roman citizen, whom the laws probibited ever to be scourged. Lysias was alarmed at having exceeded his authority, and the next day caused his chains to be taken off. Anxious, however, to obtain fuller information concerning him, he convoked the sanhedrim, and ordered Paul to be brought before it. Firm from conscious innocence and the supports of God, Paul maintained that though brought thither as a criminal, his conduct had been marked by integrity. With a base perversion of justice, Ananias, the high-priest, ordered those who were' near him to smite him on the face, thus endeavouring to silence him, and prevent him from vindicating himself. The Saviour before an iniquitous tribunal had been treated in a similar

manner. With all that gentleness which ever distinguished his conduct, he meekly replied, “ If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil, but if well, why smitest thou me?” (John xviii. 23.) Paul, however, showed perhaps something of the weakness and infirmity of human nature, when indignant at this insult, he immediately exclaimed, “ God shall smite thée, thou whited wall! for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?" He however instantly corrected and apologized for the hastiness of his expressions ; declaring that he was unacquainted with the office of Ananias, for it was now twenty-three years since he had been in the confidence of the chief rulers of the country, and therefore many of them must have been unknown to him; but he spoke doubtless by a prophetic impulse, and his prediction was verified by the singular and speedy destruction of Ananias.

Perceiving that the council was composed of pharisees, who strenuously maintained a future resurrection, and of sadducees, who denied it, Paul declared that it was for maintaining the leading doctrine of the pharisees, the resurrection and its consequences, that he was summoned before them. This declaration immediately excited much commotion in the assembly: the pharisees showing an inclination to favour and release Paul, fearing if an angel or the Holy Spirit had made a revelation to him, they by their opposition would be found fighting against God. So great were the contests between the different parties, that Lysias, fearing for the safety of Paul, ordered him to be removed from the bar by a band of soldiers, and conducted back in safety to the castle.



« PoprzedniaDalej »