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denying as false what the Scripture reveals to he true: and teaching that the Lord of Glory is a mere man like ourselves; that the writers to whom the Holy Ghost dictated were not inspired; that man neither hath nor wauts any redemption in Jesus Christ: with other things of the same kind; so hurtful to man, and so contrary to truth, that no Jew, no sorcerer, no false prophet, could teach worse.
If St. Paul had met with one of these, he would certainly have addressed him as he did Elymas; he would have accused him of subtlety and mischief, and called him a child of the devil, whatever his companions might have wished to call him: they, perhaps, would have extolled and magnified him, as a great, a learned, an ingenious man, wonderful in wisdom and knowledge: and so, very probably, was this man reputed by people at the island of Cyprus; if he had not been eminent in his way, he would scarcely have been encouraged by Sergius Paulus, the chief person of the place: and with this man, prudent as he was, the sorcerer might have succeeded, and turned him away from the faith, if it had not been for the miracle which was wrought in his sight. For no sooner M'as Elymas made blind, than the deputy, seeing what was done, believed w-hat he had heard, being astonished at the word of the Lord: he was astonished at the miracle, and he believed what was so confirmed. The power that made one man blind, opened the eyes of anothei*; and this was the way in which it pleased God to bring men to the Gospel. When the wisdom of man thinks about the right way of bringing us to truth, it thinks a different way from this. Man tells us, we must be reasoned with; we must have it proved to us, that a doctrine is reasonable before we believe it; and that jf it does not appear reasonable, we ought not to receive it at all. This is absurd and impossible: the Gospel could never have been propagated in that manner: there was no time for it. SergiusPaulus, to whom our apostle addressed himself, was an heathen.; and to convert him by reasoning, he must have proceeded methodically, and have brought him first to an understanding of the Old Testament; of the religion of the law, and the writings of the prophets: he must have made a Jew of him first; then he must hare argued from the agreement of the events of the Gospe}, with what had been foreshewed, and foretold in the scriptures before; and this course of instruction would have required a long time: and, what is worst of all, it might not have succeeded at last; for man is not in a condition to be taught this way: till Go$ works uponhim by his grace, he can be nothing more than a natural man; and we are told the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: they seem to be all wrong: it is contrary to man's pride, and lust, and covetousness, to receive and follow a crucified Saviour. Nature and reason can never be brought to this, without being conquered by some power which the senses cannot resist; and when the word of God comes forward in this manner, then it is received. The proconsul was astonished when he saw what was done by the hand of the Lord; and then he believed what was said by his minister^ and became a christian.
Thi6 is God's way of converting the world to the truth; but man would have it all done by reasoning. When a man has received it, he may see that it is all reasonable, and be in love with the wisdom of it^ and even give up his life for the truth of it; but for all this, he is not indebted to his own reason "or nature, but to the power of God, by which his reason is taken
captive. Upon the evidence of miracles, the world at first received the Gospel; and when parents have it and understand it, they will teach it diligently to their children, who receive it before they can reason upon it. Let them be neglected and left in ignorance till they are grown up, and then see whether their reason will ever take to it. I fear it will not; for the children of bad parents are generally bad themselves: not always; because the goodnesss of God can find other ways of bringing them to the truth, and putting them into the way of salvation: but the ordinary way, after the first establishment of the Gospel by miracles, is by education and instruction; and woe to parents that neglect it 1 they will sutler in a twofold sense; in their own persons, and in the persons of their impenitent children.
We have now gone through the particulars of this wonderful narrative. We have seen how the power of the word of God wrought by his apostle. We have seen a wise man (for such without doubt the sorcerer thought himself) made blind; and a prudent man brought over to the Gospel, which he wanted to know, from what he had heard. Before we leave the subject, I would point out some few- things which are most worthy to be laid up in our minds.
]. The Apostle of the Gentiles makes a great appearance upon this occasion, and acts in that honourable character, under which he ought always to be remembered. We are told how God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul; and that wrought upon the sorcerer was a special miracle, great in itself, and instructive to those who consider it. The progress of the apostle through the isle of Cyprus shews us with what power the Gospel made its way in the world. This island was an accursed place; it was one of the grand seats of heathenish delusion, where Satan might be said to have established his throne; and yet, in this place, all the power of the enemy gives way to the Gospel. The preachers begin at Salamis, and publish the word in the synagogues of the Jews there: they begin, as it was their constant custom, with the Jews, and thence go through the isle, working and preaching as they go, though the particulars are not related; and coming at length to Paphos, that grand mart of idolatry, they find this Sergius Paulus, an heathen, desirous to hear, and disposed to receive the word of God. They come to him, and enter upon their employments: but here is a man in the way that would hinder them; this Elymas would turn away the deputy from the faith. He was a prudent man, and able to see and to judge: why could not he leave him to himself? But this wicked men can never do; they can never let people alone; they expect that all men should be like themselves, and are as earnest for a lie, as an apostle is for the truth. The Devil is always active and zealous; he never surfers the truth to prosper, if he can help it; and his children are like him: they are full of subtlety and art to do mischief: but let them be as cunning as they will, God and his truth are above them.
When you see what this man does, you must expect that others will be doing the same to the end of the world; and you ought never to be staggered in your belief by the tempers and actions of the enemies of the truth. All men will not love truth; many are adverse to it, and to God for being the author of it; which is a most lamentable consideration. Even a miracle, which brings astonishment and conviction upon some, will have no effect upon others. They jjjo on just as they did before: when this man is made. blind, all he seeks is to be led by the hand, that he may find his way: he makes no reflexions, and receives no benefit. It was thus with the men of Sodom. When they had beset the house of righteous Lot, they carried on the assault after they were stiuck blind : they still " wearied themselves to find the door," and were as intent upon mischief as ever. The sufferer in the parable thought that a miracle would be the saving of his wicked brethren: but he judged falsely; for if men who have the Scriptures do not hear them, their heart is wrong, and then a miracle would have no effect
Now in the last place, remember, that the man, who would not see, lost the use of his eyes. Beware, lest the like misfortune should befal any of you; lest, by neglecting the light while it is shining in your eyes, you should be able at last to see nothing. Never turn away from the truth, lest the truth should turn away from you, and leave you in eternal darkness. Cultivate every gift that you have, and it will be increased: use what light you have, and God will open your eyes to see more: he that can see great things, shall see greater. If you read the Scripture, and desire to understand it, some new light will come in upon you, and will enable you to understand it better. When once the inclination is discovered, it will be encouraged and assisted. Sergius Paulus called for Barnabas and Saul; and then all those great things followed, about which I have been discoursing to you. Philip the Evangelist wa3 sent to the Ethiopian nobleman in the wilderness; but then you are to observe, that he was sent to a man, who had already got a bible in his hand, and who wished to hear it interpreted.
God will act by the same rules now, by which he acted in former ages : these examples of the scriptures