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ACTs xxi. 13. Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep, and to break my
heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but ayo to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.
C H A P. I.
H E Divine providence is not more signally discovered in a I governing the motions of the clouds, than it is in dilu poung and ordering the spirits and motions of the ministers of the gospel, who, in a myllical seose, are fruitful clouds, to dil et peate the showers of gospel-blessings to the world. The more tion of the clouds is aut fpontaneous, but they move as they are moved by the winds; neither can gospel-ministers chule 17 their own stations, and govern their own motions, but mult goed when and where the Spirit and providence of God directs and se guides them; as will evidently appear in that dangerous voyag: to Jerusalem in which the apoitle was at this time engaged Acts xx. 22. “ And now, behold, I go bound in the Spirit ra 1 “ Jerulalem," [bound in the Spirit :] Alluding to the watery va pours which are bound up in clouds, and conveyed according to the motions of the winds. This journey was full of danger; lo Paul foresaw his bufoels was not only to plant the gospel at Jerusalem with his doctrine, but to water it also with his blood; but so effectually was his will determined by the will of God that he chearfully complies with his duty therein, whatsoever lite difficulties and daogers did attend it.
And indeed it was his great advantage, that the will of God was so plainly, and convincingly revealed to him touching this matter; for no souper did he employ himself to obey this call of God, but he is presently assaulted by many strong temptations to decline it.
The first rub he met in his way, was from the disciples of Tyre, who pretending to speak by the Spirit, said unto Paul, that he should not go up to Jerusalem, Acts xxi. 4. The Lord :by this trying the spirit of his apostle much, as he did the young prophet coming from Judea to Bethel, 1 Kings xiii. 18. but not with like success,
His next discouragement was at Caefarea, where Agabus (whom Dorotheus affirms to be of the seventy-two disciples, and had before prophesied of the famine in the reign of Claudius,
which accordingly came to pass) takes Paul's girdle, and bindiog his own hands and feet with it, faid, “ Thus faith the Holy
" Ghost, so shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that own- eth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the « Gentiles,” Acts xxi. II. And surely he was not ignorant what he must expect whenever he should fall into their hands; yet neither could this'affright him from his duty.
But then, last of all, he meeteth with the forest trial from his dearest friods, who fell upon him with passiogate votreaties, and many tears, beseeching him to decline that journey: O they could not give up such a minister as Paul was ! this even melted him down, and almost broke his heart, which yet was easier to do, thao to turn him out of the path of obedience : Where, by the way, we may note two things : . First, That divine precept, not providence, is to rule out our way of duty.
Secondly, That no hindrances, or discouragements, whatsoever, will justify our neglect of a koowo dury. 1. All these rubs he passes over ; all these discouragements he overcame, with this heroic and truly Christian resolution in the text; “ 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.” lo which words we have,
1. A loving and gentle rebuke.
2. A quieting and calming argument. First, He lovingly and gently rebukes their food and inordiDate forrow for his departure, in these words, What mean ye to weep, and to break my heart ? As if he should say, What meao these passionate in treaties, and tempting tears ? To what purpose is all this a-do? They are but fo many soares of Satan, to turn my heart out of the way of obedience : You do as much as in you lies to break my heart ; let there be no more of this, I beseech you
. Secondly, He labours to charm their voruly passions with a very quieting and calming arguineot; For I am ready, &c. STOPWS & you, parate habeo. I am prepared, and fitted for the greatest sufferings which thall befal me in the pursuit of my duty; be it a prison, or be it death, I am provided for either : Liberty is dear, and life much dearer, but Christ is dearer than
But what was there in all this, to satisfy them whose trouble it was to see him fo forward ?. Let the words be coolidered,
and we shall find divers things in them to satisfy and quiet their hearts, and make them willing to give him up.
First, I am ready; that is, God hath fitted and prepared my heare for the greatest fufferings ; this is the work of God: fleta and blood would never be brought to this, were not all its interests and incligations subdued, and over-ruled by the Spirit of God. What do ye therefore in all this, but work against the desigo of God, who hath fitted and prepared my heart for this service ?
Secondly, I am ready; that is, my will and resolution ftands in a full bent, my heart is fixed, you cannot therefore ftudy to do me a greater injury, than to difcompose and diforder my heart again, by casting such temptations as these io my way, to cause the Aesh to rebel, and the enemy that is within to renew his opposition,
Thirdly, I am ready ; that is, my heart is fo fixed to follow the call of God, whatever shall befal me, that all your lears and iotreaties to the contrary are but cast away; they cannot alter my fixed purpose ; you had as good be quiet, and chearfully re. Sigu me to the will of God.
Thus you see the equipage and preparation of Paul's fpirit to receive both bonds and death for Christ at Jerusalem ; this made him victorious over the temptations of friends, and the malice and cruelty of his enemies : By this readiness, and preparation of his mind, he was carried through all, and enabled to finish his course with joy. From hence the observation is, Doct. That it is a blessed and excellent thing, for the people
of God to be prepared, and ready for the hardest fervices,
and work of sufferings, to which the Lord may call them. This is that which cvery gracious heart is reaching after, praying, and thriving to obtain ; but ah! how few will attaio it! Certainly there are pot many among the multitudes of the pru• feffors of this generation, that can fay as Paul here did, “ I am “ ready to be bound, or to die for Christ.”
Ć HA P. II. Shews, that although God takes no delight in afflicting his peopla
yet he sometimes exposeth them to great and grievous suffer ings; with a brief account why, and how he calls them there. unto. .. THE mercies and compassion's of God over his people,
I are exceeding great and tender, Pfal, ciij. 13. “ Like as " a father pitieth his children, to the Lord pitieth them that 1 « fear him.” He delights oot in afflicting and grieving them, Lam. iii. 33. “ He doth not afflict willingly, por grieve the “ children of men.” The scripture intimates to us a seeming conflict betwixt the justice and mercy of God, when he is about to deliver up his people into their enemies haods, Hosea xi. 8, : “ How shall I give thee up, Ephraim ? How Thall I deliver “ thee, Irael? How shall I make thee as Adma? How all “ I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is curped withio me, my “ repentings are kiodled together.” Which thews us with what reluctance, and great unwillingness the Lord goes about such a work as this. The work of judgment is his Arange work, ic pleases him better to execute the milder attribute of mercy towards his children. Hence we find, when he is preparing to execute his judgments, that he delays the execution as long as the honour of his name, and safety of his people will permit, Jer. xliv. 23. He bears till he can bear no longer : he often curbs away his Wrath from them, Pfal. Ixxviii. 38, 39. He tries them by lelser judgmeots, and geotler corrections, to prevent greater, Amos iv. 6. When his people are humbled uoder the threatens ings of his wrath, his heart is melted into compassion to them,
Jer. xxxi. 17, 20. aod whenever his mercy prevails against 5. judgmeor, it is with joy and triumph, Jam. ii. 13. Mercy rejoiceth against judgment,
For he feels his own tender compassions yerding over them ; he foreseeth, and is no way willing to gratify the insulting pride of his, and their enemies. Deut. xxxii. 26, 27. “ I laid I so would scatter them into corners, I would make the remem“ brance of them to cease from among men, were it not that I “ feared the wrath of the enemy, left their adversarics should 66 behave themselves strangely," be.
Yet all this, potwithstanding, it often falls out, by the provocations of his sods and daughters, that the Lord gives them up into the hands of their enemies for the correction of their evils, and the manifestation of his own glory. Seneca, though a heathen, could say, that God loves his people with a mascu. line love, not with a womanish indulgence, and tenderness: 18 need require, they shall be in heavinels through manifold temptations, 1 Pet. i. 6. He had rather their hearts should be heavy poder adversity, thap vaio and carelels uoder prosperity; the choiceít spirits have been exercised with the sharpelt suffer ings, and those that now shine as stars in heaven, have been trode under foot as dung on the earth, 1 Cor. iv. 11, 12, 13. “ Unto this present hour we both hunger aod thirst, and are * Daked, and buffeted, and have ao certain dwelling-place, " and labour, working with our owo hands; being reviled we had “ blets, being persecuted we suffer it, being defamed we intreat; " we are made as the filth of the world, and the off-scouring of a “ all things up to this day.” The eleventh chapter to the He brews is a compendium of the various and grievous sufferings of the primitive laists: “ They were tortured, they were fawn “ afunder, were tempted, were Nain with the sword, they “ wandered about jo sheep-skios aod goat-skids, being afflicted, “ deltirule, tormenred, of whom the world was not worthy; " they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, in dens, and " caves of the earth.” And since the earth hath dried up those rivers of precious blood, whereof the facred records make men. tion, what feas of Chriftians blood have fince those days been in Thed by bloody perfecutors ? Histories inform us, that in the fie ten primitive perfecutions, so many of the saints and martyrs of Jesus Christ have been lain, as that you may allow five thousands a day to every day in the whole year. Those bloody emperors fported themselves with the deaths of God's deareft faints; many precious Chriftians were burnt by night at Rome, to serve as torches to light their enemies in their passage through the streets; eight hundred thousaod martyrs are mentioned within the fpace of thirty years, since the Jesuits arose out of the bot tomless pit.
To what grievous sufferings did the Lord give up those precious servants of Christ, the Waldenses, and Albigeples, who received the light of reformation about the year 1260, whea the fogs of Antichristian darkness had overspread the earth! a people found io judgment, as appears by their letters, catechisms, and confeffions, which are extant; a people of a lim. ple, plain, and inoffensive behaviour : Yet, with what fury and rage did that impious pope Pius persecute them to destruction ! driving them into the woods and mountains, except the aged, and children that could not flee, who were murdered in the way: Some famihed in the caves, and clefts of the rocks ; others ele dared the rack for eight hours together; some beaten with iron rods, others thrown from the tops of high towers, and dalhed to pieces.
What bloody shambles, and laughter-houles, have France, Ireland, and England, been made by popish cruelty! More might be related out of each story, than a tender-hearted read. er is able to bear the rehearsal of. But what God hath dope, he may do again : We are not better than our fathers, dilmal clouds of indignation are gathering over our heads, charged evich double destruction ; hould the Lord please to make them