« AnteriorContinuar »
and he bid him hasten to receive in baptism the seal of that new covenant, by which he would be cleansed from his sins, through the name of the Lord, on which he bid him call.
(The circumstances thus alluded to by St. Paul have been more particularly explained in the fourteenth portion, in which the account of his conversion is given ; see page 103.)
But the apostle went on to say, that this was not the only occasion upon which he had been favoured with the sight of this Just One. For that when he afterwards returned to Jerusalem, he was engaged in prayer in the temple; and he fell into a trance, in which he saw this same person, who bid him hasten immediately from Jerusalem, for that his testimony concerning Jesus would not be received there. Paul told the people that upon this he had reminded the Lord of the reasonable ground which he had given for causing his testimony to be rejected : for the Jews knew that he had punished by imprisonment, and scourging in the synagogue, the believers in Jesus; and that, even when the Lord's martyr, Stephen, had sealed his testimony with his blood, Paul had himself been standing by, and giving encouragement to those who were killing him, by consenting to his death, and even taking care of the clothes which they had laid aside for the purpose. To this expostulation however Jesus had only answered, that he was to depart from Jerusalem, for that He meant to send him far off to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.
(The events connected with Paul's vision in the temple which he here speaks of, are more fully explained in the sixteenth portion ; see page 118.)
Thus far the crowd of Jews had listened with patient attention to the apostle's address; in which he had so arranged his subject, as to make everything fall in as far as possible with their national and religious prejudices. He had gradually engrafted upon these Jewish feelings the introduction of christian truth, whilst stating the wonders of his conversion. They bore with all this, and gave their attention in silence, until he came at last to the one grand point upon which their pride would not bear to
be touched. At the mention of sending the gospel to the Gentiles, their rage burst out, they would hear him no longer, but they all set up a shout of “away with such a fellow from the earth! such a fellow is not fit to live !"
As the uproar increased, some of the people began taking off their clothes, in order to be more at liberty in treating Paul as they had treated Stephen ; others threw the dust of the earth up into the air, which appears to have been a customary manner of expressing anger in order to excite a tumult; upon which the Tribune gave orders that he should be brought into the castle of Antonia. Not understanding the Hebrew language, he could not comprehend why it was that the crowd were so exasperated against this man ; 'and he determined to resort to the common Roman practice of putting a man to the torture, in order to make him tell what it was supposed that he wished to conceal. There were various ways of torturing. One was to tie the man to a pillar, and scourge him with whips upon his bare back. The Tribune commanded that this should be applied to Paul, and the officer proceeded to execute the orders. As the soldiers were tying Paul's arms round the pillar, he asked the centurion who was directing them, whether he thought it was according to law, to have a Roman citizen scourged, without having been tried for any offence and condemned? The centurion immediately went to the Tribune, and advised him to be cautious in his treatment of the prisoner, for that he had the privileges of a Roman citizen; one of which was, that he could not be punished by scourging, without the sanction of a legal sentence. The Tribune immediately went to Paul, and asked him whether he was a Roman citizen ? The apostle replied that he was. There were various ways of obtaining this great privilege, which was very highly valued ; and the Tribune told Paul, that he had given a very large sum of money for his freedom as a Roman citizen. Paul said that he had received it by birth. The soldiers immediately desisted from the work they were about in preparing to put him to the torture ; and the Tribune himself, as soon as he discovered that Paul was a Roman citizen, felt alarmed at having ordered him to be tied to the pillar. (Acts xvi. 37–39; see page 215.)
APPLICATION. 1. It is very instructive to trace the working of human corruption in the natural current of men's thoughts, as it is shewn by their actions. Man's fallen nature is ever the same, and unless it be regulated by divine grace, similar results will follow from similar combinations of circumstances in every generation. The Hellenist Jews were greatly incensed against Paul, and at the sight of him in the temple, their anger could no longer be restrained. They gave vent to their feelings by stating what they really thought about him, as to his speaking against the Mosaic rites; but to bring their charges against him to a point certain to stir up the Jews to fall upon Paul, they went on to declare what they took for granted as a matter of course. They had seen Trophimus and Paul walking together in Jerusalem-Paul they conceived paid no respect to the Temple-of course he took Trophimus into it with him! The scripture does not say that the Hellenist Jews asserted this knowing it to be a falsehood; but that they supposed it to have been really the case. Every one who gives way to angry feelings, and fosters enmity against another, loses the power of checking the current of their thoughts, which will go forward under the impulse given them. Any thing is taken for granted which suits the purpose of the hating heart. How many slanderous reports have been set forth in the same manner as this charge against Paul! A disliked person is known to have been in some situation where possibly evil might happen :-he is supposed of course to commit the evil; and the mind thus readily convinced does not hesitate to state its convictions as fact. Although occasions of this kind of a more striking and evident a character rarely occur, yet a close and faithful examination into the details of our manner of speaking, concerning those whom we do not like, would detect numberless lesser instances in which the true statements are linked together by these matters of course, most of which would turn out to be unfounded at the slightest effort of honest and reasonable investigation.
QUESTION. What is the ground of my opinion of any person whom I do not like? Do I ever express that opinion? Am I sure of the facts on which it is formed ? or have I assumed any thing as a matter of course ?
2. The false conclusion of the Jews, who hated Paul, must however be distinguished from the mistake concerning him made by the Roman commander; though his error of ignorance affords us a lesson as well as their error of malice. The Jews were led to a false conclusion by their enmity to Paul; the Tribune formed a mistaken opinion by an imaginary likelihood of appearances. He found a disturbance created, and a man taken by the mob:
this suggested the thought of the recent outbreak of the Egyptian, who had then escaped—and he concluded that the present tumult was excited by no other than he. In every case of surprize and mystery the imagination is ready to arrange such a course of events as will account for that, of which the case is unknown; and in this way the human heart often displays its natural want of charity, in finding a solution to any mystery rather of a bad than of a good kind-assuming wrong rather than right conduct as the occasion of difficulties, of the source of which there is no knowledge. There were many other ways of accounting for Paul's situation, which of itself should have excited the compassion of Lysias ; but it was readiest to his mind to think of the Egyptian rebel, and he acted under this impression. Much regret would be prevented if there were, in every case, a more patient enquiry into circumstances, before a judgement is formed upon appearances; and if there were a more charitable expectation of good, rather than a ready suspicion of evil.
QUESTION. Am I apt to judge by appearances in forming my opinion of any person ? To which does my mind habitually tend, a favourable, or an unfavourable judgment of persons ? Does it require a great preponderance of unfavourable appearances to make me think ill of any one ? or is the reverse the case ?
3. The manner in which Paul became all things to all men, that he night save some, was pointed out in the fortysecond portion (see page 296), where his conduct shewed how to a Jew he became a Jew, that he might gain the Jews. There his actions were in perfect consistency with his principles; but here we see those principles carried out in his address to the enraged Jews, which manifested a careful attention to the Jewish feelings, in combination with a faithfulness which could not hide the truth. Paul's address is a beautiful specimen of christian tact; he introduced those parts of his case that appealed to the feelings of his Jewish auditors in a manner calculated to soothe them, before he brought forward that which he knew would raise their opposing prejudices. Yet his tact was confined to the manner of leading them on to this point, and did not induce him to alter, in the least, the essential truth he was bound to tell them. He made the most of his own Jewish feelings, which had been so like their own-he did not smooth over the character of his own violent opposition to christianity; and it was when he had thus struck the chord that was in harmony with their state of mind, that he proceeded to explain the miraculous means by which his views had been changed, and he had become the champion of that which he had so violently resisted. Having kept their attention thus far, he passed at once to the statement of a second appearance of the Lord with which he had been favoured, shewing that his altered opinions were the result of direct communication from heaven. The more closely we examine the whole of this discourse, the more we shall find it to be a lesson in the divine art of communicating heavenly truths to unwilling ears and opposing hearts.
QUESTION. When I have occasion to speak of religious truth to persons who are ignorant and prejudiced against it, am I satisfied with discharging my responsibility by placing the gospel before them? Or do I take pains to present it to them in the least offensive way which will consist with faithfulness ; preparing their minds by shewing as much sympathy with them as possible ?
4. Yet there is a point beyond which no care, no tact, can make the unconverted heart tolerate the declaration of the truth of God. With some it may be one essential