« AnteriorContinuar »
THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF THE APOSTLE PAUL
Description of the city of Antioch in Syria---state of the church there---Barnabas and
Saul are sent forth to preach to the Gentiles---they perform their first journey, in which they visit Cyprus, where Elymas, the sorcerer, is struck blind, and Sergius Paulus, the proconsul, is converted---Soul takes the name of Paul--at Perga, they are forsaken by Mark---they visit Antioch in Pisidia, where, having preached to the Jews, they turn to the Gentiles, whom they contert in considerable numbers---being driven out from Antioch and Iconium, they flee to Lystra, where they heal a lame man, and reject the idolatrous humage of the people---Paul suddenly recovers, after being stoned ; and returns to Antioch by the same route as he went forth, establishing discipline in the churches in the course of his journey---he resides a long time af -Intioch---embussy to Jerusalem---Paul and Barnabas separate---Paul goes a second journey through Syria and Cilicia, is invited over to Macedonia, and lands at Philippi ---the Pythoness virgin---the jailer converted---Paul preaches at Thessalonica, Beræa, Athens, and Corinth---abides in the latter city a year ana sir months, and writes his first and second cpistles to the Thessalonians, and that to the Galatians---review of these epistles---he gocs, by Ephesus and Cæsarea, to Jerusalem, where he performs his rou, and salutes the church, and then returns to Antioch in Syria---he sets out on a third journey, and visits Ephesus, where he writes the
first epistle to the Corinthians, arid is in danger, from a tumult on account of Diana---in the course of his journey to Macedonia, he writes the second of Corinthians, and the first of Timothy---visits different parts of Greece---writes to the Romuns from Corinth---proceeds to Jerusalem by Troas and Miletus---he is assaulted by the Jews, and rescued by Lysias, the tribune ---pleads before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa--his dangerous royage to Rome---his adventures at Melita---his residence at Rome---review of his epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, to Philemon, and to the Hebrews---his fourth journey through Asia---his epistle to Titus---his second imprisonment at Rome --his second epistic ta l'imothy, his death and character,
ANTIOCH, the capital of Syria, was, in the times of the apostles, a large, populous, and celebrated city, being accounted next to Rome and Alexandria, the most considerable in the empire. It was erected near the mouth of the Orontes, by Selcueus
Nicater, one of the most successii: cap'ains of Alexander the Great. It was afterward decominated Tetrapolis, (i. e. fourfolii city,) being divided, as it were, into four cities, each of them having its proper wall. besides the common one by which the whole was surrounded. It frequently suffered by earthquakes, but was not utterly destroyed, till it had been reduced by Bibaris, a sultan of Egypt. Its walls were flanked with four hundred square towers, strongly built, of which many remain to this day, and are remarkable for being each of them furnished with a cisteri). It is reported to have been the birth-place of Luke, the evangelist ; of Theophilus, to whom he addressed his writings ; and of Ignatius the martyr, its celebrated bishop.
Here, as we have related in the former chapter, a very flourishing church had been collected, through the preaching of those excellent inen who had been dispersed abroad, on account of the persecution of Stephen. The Christians at Antioch, experiencing in themselves that abundant consolation which the gospel of the blessed Redeemer is calculated to afford, longed to impart the benefits which they enjoyed to their neighbours, who were lying in darkness, and therefore cast a wishful eye on the countries around them. On the south, at Damascus, Cæsarea, and Jerusalein, considerable bodies of Christians had been collected, who were sedulously and success. fully engaged in evangelizing the towns and villages which were scattered in their vicinity. On the west, at a small distance from their shores, lay the large island of Cyprus, the immense woods of which had long been sufficiently thinned, to allow rooni for the erecting a great number of populous cities, whose inhabitants were richly furnished with the comforts of life, and awfully disgraced by their practice of debauchery. On the east, the provinces which formerly composed the most essential parts of the Babylonian and Assyrian empires contained, probably, a much greater number of Jews, ihan had even returned to their native country in consequence of the decree of Cyrus. These descendants of Abraham had established sviagogues for their edification in religion, to which were annexed schools for the instruction of their youth, and the formation of future rabbies ; had enjoyed their principles with safety, while their brethren in Judea were bleeding beneath the tyranny of the Syrian princes : and bad frequently resorted, as opportunity had occurred, to worship the God of their fathers in the temple of Jerusalem. On the north was Cilicia, which had given birth to Saul, the celebrated convert; and had, no doubt, reaped cousiderable benefit from his labours. Proceeding further in the same direction, and crossing that ride of mountains which is denominated Taurus, the traveller enters upon a very consider. able peninsula, which the Greeks had distinguished from the rest of the continent by the appellation of Asia Minor. It contained Cappadocia, Isauria, Lycaonia, Pamphylia, the two Phrygias, Pisidia, Caria, Lycia, the proconsular Asia, in whicho the seven churches were afterwards founded ; Bithynia, Mysia, Paphlagonia, Pontus, and several other subdivisions, some of which changed their names, in consequence of their passing under the dominion of different conquerors. In all of these last enumerated provinces, the Greek language was familiarly known, though mang or them made use of dialects, or even languages, peculiar to themselves.
Now there were iu the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers wf great note, particularly Barnabas, a generous Levite, who had given up the whole of his estate to charitable uses ; and Simeon, who was also.called Niger, or the Black, from his swarthy complexion ; and Lucius the Cyrenian, a native of Africa ; and Manaen, a person of considerable rank, who was educated with Herod the tetrarch in his father's court, yet thought it no disgrace to appear as a Christian minister ; ood to mention no more, Saul, that remarkable convert, whose labours in the church were as we shall further learu, su emuently useful. And, as they were ministeriray to the Lord in public, and joined fasting to praver, the Holy Spirit, by immediate revelation, said, Separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the extraordinary work of freaching the gospel among the Gentiles, to which I have now expressly called them.
Being thus sent forth by the Holy Spirit, Saul and Barnabas went first to Seleucia, a considerable port in the Mediterranean sea ; and, from thence, sailed to Salamis, thie eastern port of the island of Cyprus. Here they preached in the Jewish synagogues, and were occasionally assisted by John, whose surname was Mark. And, having travelled through the whole island as far as Paphos, which lay on its western coast, they found there a certain Jew, who was a magician and false prophet, whose name was Bar-Jesus, or the son of one Jesus, or Joshua. This was a person who was much regarded, and was, at that time, in great favour with the Roman proconsul there, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man, of a steady conduct and thoughtful temper, ready to inquire after truth, and capable to judge of its evidence, who, having received some general intelli ence of their character and messages, sent some of those that were about hiin, and, calling for Barnabas and Saul, desired to hear the word of God, that lie might know what was the purport of their preaching, and what regard was due to the doctrine which they taught. But Elymas, or the magician, (for that was the meaning of his name Elynsas, when translated into the Greek language) as he was sensible that he should be no more regarded if their docirine was received, set bimself, all be could, to hinder the effect of it, and withstood them in their preaching; endeavouring, in a crafty way, by a variety of false ivsinuations which he used, to turn away the proconsul from embracing the faith. As it was proper that this bold blasphemer should be signally arrested in his opposition to the truth of God, Saul, after having severely reproved him for his sin, informed him that, for a season, he should be deprived of the benefit of sight ; and this denunciation was immediately fuiflled, to the great astonishment of all that were present, and to the conversion of the procousul and marry others.
It is in the course of this parration [Acts xiii.9.] that Saul is first called Paul, a name which he not only sustains henceforth wherever mentioned by the bistorian, but also constantly makes use of throughout bis epistolary writmgs. Some, says Dr. Doddridge, have thought the apostle had, originally, two names ; and, many others, that he changes the former for the latter, either out of deference to Sergius Paulus, or to the Gentiles among whom he now preached, so much as to be called, by way of eminence, (though not in strict appropriation) their apostle. But Dr. Doddridge thinks Beza's account of the matter most easy and probable ; that, having conversed hitherto with Jews and Syrians, to whom the name of Saul was familiar, and now coming among Romans and Greeks, they would naturally pronounce his liame Paul.; as one, whose Hebrew name was Jocbanan, would be called, by the Greeks and Latins, Johannes ; by the French, Jean; by the Dutch, Hans ; and by the English, John. Beza thinks the family of this proconsul might be the first who addressed or spoke of him by the name of Paul.
Having thus performed the work of God in Cyprus, Paul and his company sailed to Perga, a town in Pamphylia, a province which joined to Cilicia along the northern coast of the Mediterraliean sea. But Jobn, suruaned Mark, perceiving that they intended a long tour in these parts, and that they were like to meet with much opposition among the idolatrous Gentiles, to whom they were carrying the gospel, could not, ng all the warmest remonstrances of Paul, and his own uncle Barnabas, be persuaded to share their labours and dangars iu so excellent a cause ; but, taking the opportunity of a vessel, which he found in that port, bound for Palestine, he withdrew himsolf from them, and returned to Jerusalem.
Departing from Perga, the holy missionaries proceeded to Antioch, a considerable city in the district of Pisidia, which lay north of Pamphylia, and consequently farther from the sea. And entering into the Jewish synagogue on the sabbath-day, they sat down a:nong those that were worshipping there. And, after the customary reading of the proper sectiou for the day out of the law, and another out of the pro phers, the rulers of the synagogue, kuowing, in general, the public character which the two celebrated strangers sustajued, and being curious to hear from their own mouth that new doctrine which had made so much noise in other places, sent one of the inferior officers to them, saying, Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation to the people, or any declaration to make which may conduce to the edification of the assembly, speak it freely, as this is the proper season of doing it. Then Paul stood up, and, at considerable length, recounted the dealings of God with the Israelitisli nation, from the time of their dwelling strangers in Egypt, to the exalting of David to the sovereign power. Thence be made a rapid transition to the incarnation of Jesus Christ, his death, and his resurrection, the last of which he confirmed by appealing to the prophecies of God. He coveluded with declaring the unspeakable happiness of such as, believing in him, received that justification which the law of Moses could never coufer, and exhorting them to beware lest that should come upon them which was spoken by the prophets. [13a. xxviii. 14.] Behold, ye despisers, and
, wonder, and perish : fur I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. The Jews appear to have made no reply to this discourse ; but the Gentiles, who, out of curiosity, were many of them assembled there on the fame of the arrival of such celebrated men, earnestly desired that these words might be spoken to them again the following sabbath, when they promised to attend themselves, and to bring as many of their friends as they could : and thus the assembly broke up for that tiine. This sermon was, however, not without success ; for we find that many, both of the Jews and devout proselytes, followed Paul and Barnabas, who persuaded them to continue in the grace of God which they had now received.
The next sabbath, a large multitude of the Gentiles being gathered together to hear, the unbelieving Jews were filled with envy, and blasphemously contradicted thuse truths which were asserted hy Paul. In consequence of this treatment, Paul and Barnabas declared their intention of turning to the Gentiles; from which time, it is probable, that though they still laboured for the benefit of the Jews wherever they canie, yet the couversion of the Gentiles becaine a peculiarly important object of iheir attention. In the mean time, great numbers of the Gentiles were converted ; and as these united their labours with those of the apostles, the word of the Lord was borne on as with a mighty torrent throughout all that regiou, which, by this means, was watered as with a river of salvation. But the Jews, provoked beyond all patience at such a conduct and at such success, stirred up some devout wonen of considerable rank, who, having been proselyted to their religion, were peculiarly zealous for it; and also applied themselves to the magistrates of the city, representing these new preachers as exciters of sedition and iniwvators in religion, who might occasion danger to the state ; and thus they raised a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their territories with violence and infainy. But they, when they were going from the boundaries of that place, shook off the dust of their feet for a testimony against them, as their Lord bad commanded bis a postles to do, in token of the certain ruin which should befal such despisers of his gospel. [Mark vi. 11.) And, departing from thence, they came to the neighbouring city of Icomtuin, and there renewed the proclamation of those glad tidings which many of the iuhabitants of
Antioch had so ungratefully rejected. But the disciples who were left there were filled with great joy, that so blessed a message had reached their hearts ; and as Paul and Barnabas bad laid their hands upon them, they were furnished with an abundant communication of the gifts as well as graces of the Holy Spirit ; whereby they were not only confirmed in the faith which they had newly embraced, but were also rendered capable of carrying on the interests of Christianity in that place, when the first planters of their church could no longer continue to cultivate and water it.
At the city of Iconium they made a long stay, and were not destitute of success, a great multitude, both of Jews and Gentiles, beilig converted to the faith. The hatred of the unbelieving Jews, however, gradually difl'used itself among their idolatrous neighbours, till the city became divided into two parties, the one encouraging, and the other persecuting, the apostles. At length, the more turbulent party prevailed, and even got the cousent of their rulers to seize upon them, and stone them, Paul and Barnabas therefore, having learned their intention, made their escape, and fled to Lystra and Derbe, both cities of Lycaonia.
There happened one circumstanice while they were in these parts which was inch taken notice of; and, as it gave occasion to a remarkable occurrence, it will not be improper to relate it particularly, There sat a certain man at Lystra who was disabled in his feet, and thereby rendered incapable of providing a maintenance for bimself, being so lame from his mother's womb' that he never had waiked at all. Now it so happened, that, in some place of public resort near which he was laid to beg for alms of those that passed by, this man heard Paul speaking, who, fixing his eyes upon him, and seeing, by the ardour and humility which was expressed in his countenance, that he had faith sufficient to be healed, and finding also in himself that the power of Christ was to be displayed on this occasion, directed his speech to the poor cripple; and said with a loud voice, in the hearing of all that were assembled there, as one that was conscious of the divine authority by which he then acted, Arise, and stand upright on thy feet: and the lame man immediately attempted it, in a believing dependance on the power of Christ, which wrought so effectually in him, that he leaped up at once froin the place where he sat with an astonishing agility, and not only stood upright, but walked about as firmly and steadily as if he had been accustomed to walk from bis infancy. And the niultitude who were piesent when this wonderful cure was wrought, seeing what Paul had done by only speaking a word, were all in raptures of astonishment, and lifted up their voices in loud acclamations, saying in the Lycaovian language, The gods are descended from heaven to us in the form and likeness of men. And, perceiving Barnabas to be a person of the better presence and of the more majestic port, they called him Jupiter ; and Paul, who was a little active man, they called Mercury, because he was the leader of the discourse, on which account they thought le might more probably be their god of eloquence. And the priest of that Jupiter who was esteemed the tutelar deity of that place, and whose image was therefore placed in a temple erected to himn before their city in the suburbs, not far from the place where the miracle was wrought, immediately brought oxen crowned with garlands, according to their usual mauner, to the gates of the place where Paul and Barnabas were, and would, with the inultitude, have offered sacrifice to them, to acknowlege the obligation they were under to them for this condescending and beneficent visit, and to take this opportunity of imploring their continued protection in their public and private affairs." But as they were leading on the sacrificial procession towards them, the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, bearing of the purpose for which it was intended, were struck with a becoming horror at the proposal, and rent their