« AnteriorContinuar »
der the controul of fate, they represented their wise man as in himself all sufficient and perfect, not even inferior to the highest of the gods ; and thus encouraged in their disciples an immoderate pride.
Such were the men, some of whom said, “ What will this babbler say ? Other some, he seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods; because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.” And so they bring him to Areopagus, their highest and most celebrated court of judicature ; by whose authority alone the admission and worship of new gods was legally sanctioned. Here Paul stood up in the midst, and said, “ Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.” The word, here translated superstitious, is frequently used in a more favourable sense : and if we attend to the spirit of Paul's oration, that it is every where else mild and conciliating, we shall be led to suppose nothing more intended here, than to convey the acknowledged character of the Athenians for religious wc ship above all other nations. In this view his introduction will appear at once engaging to his hearers, and proper for the argument in hand : as if he had said, ye men of Athens, I perceive that ye are more than commonly zealous about your devotions, and careful to omit no one object of them whatsoever : 6 For as I passed by I found an altar with this inscription, To the Un.
known God.”_Which account is confirmed by hea then writers ; and facts are recorded, shewing the excessive zeal of this people in the adoration of deities, of whose qualities, and even names, they were utterly ignorant. Neither is it improbable, that by the unknown God may be meant the God of the Jews ; for he was called by thie Gentiles the nameless, the ineffable, the invisible ; having no particular name like their own gods, nor like them worshipped with statues and images. Josephus, among several other titles, gives him that of unknown as to his essence. The Jews also held the name of God in great secrecy and veneration, taking care not to use it in common, but reserving it to most sacred and solemn occasions : “ Verily," says the Prophet Isaiah, “ thou art a God that “ hidest thyself, O God of Israel !"*
The interpretation now given connects immediately and closely with the following words ; 6 whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him I declare unto you."--He then proceeds to lay be
*". The inscription here mentioned is by some writers said to be Unknown Gods. But I do not feel myself justified in supposing, that St Paul not only makes, but reasons upon, a false quotation. Lucien clearly alludes to the inscription as quoted by St. Paul in this form of oath, “ By the God, at Athens, unknown.” Grotius thinks, that Pausanias, who gives it in the plural number, meant, several inscriptions to the Unknown God; or that perhaps there were both kinds, singular and plural. Beside him, many other commens tators take the passage as I do."
fore them several of the grand truths both of nataral and revealed religion; preaching God, the Maker and Governor of the world, Lord of heaven and earth, filling all places, and therefore not confined to temples made by men'; neither honoured by the works of their hands, as though he could possibly stand in need of any thing from them ; who is the fountain of all good, of life and every other blessing ; who hath formed all mankind of one blood and family, thus connecting them in bonds of affinity and love, and hath assigned to every nation under heaven their particular times and places of abode, dividing to them their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam ; who hath in these and all his mighty works given evidence of himself to such as diligently seek after God, thus sensibly present so as to be even felt by them ; neither does it require subtle and curious speculation to find him out ; “ He is not far from every one of us, For in him we live and move and have our being ;" —We are inevitably led by a moment's' reflection upon our own existence, life, and motion, to acknowledge some great eternal cause and origin of all our powers, 66 as certain also of your own poets have said,” especially Aratus, who calls us his offspring. “ For as much then as we are his offspring,” how can we possibly think that the Godhead is like to gold or silver or any other
work of our hands, the Creator to the workmane ship of the creature ? Such gross ignorance and idolatry cannot but be most offensive in his sight: yet hitherto he hath graciously winked at them, not visiting with strict judgment. But now having sent Jesus Christ into the world, to enlighten mankind and call them to repentance, they are no longer to expect a toleration of their offences ; for which they must answer on the day appointed by him to “ judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained : whereof he hath given assurance to all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” For what argument could be more convincing, what testimony more decisive, in favour of Christ and his doctrine of future judgment by the son of man, than his own victory over death and the grave ?
While St. Paul made this short but excellent oration, he was leard with attention, till he spoke of the resurrection of the dead : at which some (probably those of the Epicurean sect) mocked ; others (the Stoics it is most likely, who had some notion of man's revival to a future state) said “ we will hear thee again of this matter. *-However he made some converts, who attached them selves closely to him, amongst whom was Dionysius, a member of that supreme court which Paul now addressed.
From Athens Paul went to Corinth, another celebrated city of Greece, where he met with a certain Jew called Aquilla and his wife Priscilla, who had been banished from Rome by an edict of the enperor Claudius, commanding all Jews to depart thence. With these he abode, and wrought ; " for by their occupation they were tent-makers.” It was customary with persons, of what rank or quality soever, among the Jews, to practise somo trade or handicraft : and in those countries, where not only soldiers, but travellers, and many others, required the use of tents, the employment here spoken of was of some consideration, We are not then to wonder at St. Paul's being of this occupation, because he was a man of learning and knowledge. But the point most worthy of notice is, that the Apostle, instead of pleading his spiritual labour, as an exemption from all manual industry is here seen working with his own hands, “ to provide things honest in the sight of all men” In, this he shewed true dignity of character, by avoiding as much as possible, all appearance of a depena dant state, and an aversion from idleness, which may justly be called the root of all evil.” As a labourer in the Lord's vineyard (and it will be ea. sily allowed a most active and diligent one,) he was eminently worthy of his hire : yet far from availing himself of this right, though conferred by his divine master, he turns himself at the samo