Imágenes de página

18 May the love of our Lord Jesus Christ be always felt in your mind brethren. Amen. See Ephes. vi. 24.


18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ BE with your spirit, brethren., Amen.

lem, they unanimously decreed, that circumcision was by no means necessary to the salvation of the Gentiles; and sent copies of their decree to the churches in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia, by the hands of Barnabas and Paul. But the latter, who knew the extreme attachment of the Jews to the law, foreseeing, that notwithstanding the decision of the apostles and elders, some of the more zealous Jewish believers in every church, would urge the Gentiles to receive the law as necessary to their salvation; and knowing, that by the prevalence of that doctrine, the gospel would be overturned, he judged it proper, that the brethren of the Gentiles should be secured from being drawn into an error so pernicious. He therefore wrote immediately to the churches of Galatia, where, as he was informed, some had already gone over to Judaism, the letter in the Canon which bears their name, in which he proved by the strongest reasoning, that circumcision was not necessary to the salvation of either Jews or Gentiles, but faith working by love. The same doctrine he inculcated in most of his other epistles; and by his zeal for the truth of the gospel, and earnest endeavours to maintain it, he, at length, banished Judaism out of the Christian church. The epistle to the Galatians, therefore, in which this matter was debated and settled, being, as Chandler observes, perfectly suited to the state of the Christian church in its most early period, carrieth in the very nature of the question of which it treats, a strong internal evidence of its antiquity and authenticity. For it is not to be supposed, that any person in the second or third age of Christianity, would be at the trouble to write such an elaborate letter, for the purpose of determining a controversy, which, it is well known, had no existence in the church after the apostle's days.

[ocr errors]







Of the Introduction of the Christian Religion at Ephesus. ST. PAUL'S first coming to Corinth happened in the year 51, as was formerly shewed, Pref. to 1 Cor. sect. 1. On that occa sion he abode among the Corinthians somewhat more than eighteen months, Acts xviii. 11. 18. then departed by sea for Judea. In his voyage, touching at Ephesus, a city famed for its commerce and riches, and for its being the metropolis of the province of Asia, he preached in the synagogue there with some prospect of success. But hastening to go to Jerusalem to keep the feast of Pentecost, he left Ephesus soon, Acts xviii. 19, 20, 21. His first visit, therefore, to the Ephesians, was in the year 53. From the history of the Acts, it appears, that the Ephesians were a very dissolute people, and extremely addicted to magic; walking, as the apostle expresseth it, chap. ii. 2. açcording to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit which worketh in the children of disobedience. Their city, also, was the very throne of idolatry; the worship of idols being performed in no part of the heathen world with greater splendour than at Ephesus, on account of the famous temple of Diana, which was built between the city and the harbour, at the expense of all Asia; and in which was an image of that goddess, said to have fallen down from Jupiter, Acts xix. 35. This image, as we may well suppose, was worshipped with the most pompous rites, by a multitude of priests, and a vast concourse of votaries from every quarter, who, to gain the favour of Diana, came to Ephesus to offer sacrifice at her shrine.

Such being the state of religion and morals among the Ephesians, St. Paul, who was expressly commissioned by Christ to turn the Gentiles from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, resolved, at his departure from their city, to return soon, Acts xviii. 21. that he might have an opportunity of attacking idolatry in this its chief seat. Accordingly, having celebrated the feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem, he went down to Antioch, and after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples, Acts xviii. 22, 23. And having passed through the upper coasts, he came to Ephesus, Acts xix. 1. On this occasion he preached boldly in the synagogue for the space of three months, discoursing concerning, and proving the things which related to the kingdom of God, ver. 8. But the Jews, who had heard him with pleasure at his former visit, now opposed him violently, when they perceived that he preached salvation, without requiring obedience to the law of Moses. They spake also with the greatest virulence against the gospel itself; insomuch, that the apostle found it needless, and even dangerous to frequent the synagogue any longer. Wherefore, separating the disciples from the unbelieving Jews, he discoursed daily in the school of one Tyrannus, who either was himself a disciple, or allowed the apostle the use of his school for hire, And this, we are told, Acts xix. 10. continued for the space of two years; so that all they who develt in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

After leaving the school of the philosopher Tyrannus, the apostle seems to have preached and worked miracles at Ephesus, in the places of most public resort; for his fame became so great, that from his body were brought unto the sick, handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, Acts xix. 12. About this time, also, the apostle's fame was greatly increased, by what happened to the seven sons of Sceva, one of the Jewish chief priests, who went about pretending to cast out devils. In short, Paul's preaching and miracles were so blessed of God, that multitudes of the idolatrous inhabitants of Asia, strongly impressed by them, embraced the gospel; and among the rest, many who had practised the arts of magic and divination. These, to shew how sincerely they repented of their former evil practices, brought out the books which contained the secrets of their arts, and burned them publicly, notwithstanding they were of very great value: So mightily grew the word of

the Lord, and prevailed in Ephesus itself. This extraordinary success determining the apostle to stay in Asia for a season, he sent Timothy and Erastus into Macedonia. But after they were gone, one Demetrius, a silversmith, who made shrines for Diana, calling together the workmen of like occupation with himself, said to them, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth: Moreover, ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people; saying, that they be no gods which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also, that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia, and the world worshippeth. By this artful speech, Demetrius enraged the craftsmen to such a degree, that they made a great tumult, laid hold on Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's companions, and rushed with them into the theatre, intending, no doubt, to throw them to the wild beasts which were kept there. But the town-clerk, speaking to the multitude with great calmness and prudence, quieted them and dismissed the assembly; so that the Christian preachers were let go in safety.

It is said, Acts xx. 1. That after the uproar was ceased, Paul departed for to go into Macedonia. But as in the sacred history many events are narrated as in immediate succession, which happened at a considerable distance of time from each other, the passage just now quoted, may be supposed an instance of that kind. For, if I am not mistaken, the apostle abode two or three months in Ephesus and its neighbourhood after the riot. This appears from his speech to the elders of Ephesus at Miletus, Acts xx. 31. Remember, that by the space of three years, I ceased not to warn every one, &c. These three years were completed in the following manner: At his first coming to Ephesus, he abode only a few weeks, Acts xviii. 19.-21. When he returned, he preached in the synagogue three months, then taught in the school of Tyrannus two years. On leaving the school of Tyrannus, he preached and wrought miracles more publicly; the effect of which was, that many believed, and came and confessed their evil deeds, Acts xix. 18. Many also who used curious arts, being converted, brought their books and burned them, ver. 19. After which the apostle sent Timothy and Erastus into Macedonia, but he himself staid in Asia till the riot of Demetrius. The things which happened after Paul left the school of Tyrannus, to the riot of Demetrius, may have

« AnteriorContinuar »