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SUCCESS OF THE GOSPEL AT EPHESUS.
Ephesus pretended came down from heaven. This imposture drew from all parts many superstitious persons, who, at their departure, purchased silver medals of the temple and image, to the great profit of Demetrius and his workmen, by whom they were manufactured. These persons, finding that by the spread of Christianity their craft was in danger, met in solemn council to consult what was best to be done for the common good :"Sirs,” said they, “ye know that by this craft we gain our wealth; and now ye see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but in almost every other part of Asia, this Paul has had such influence, that he has persuaded the people they are no gods which are made with hands; so that not only is our lucrative traffic in danger of being ruined, but even the temple of the great goddess herself is in danger of being despised, and her magnificence destroyed ! yes, that very deity whom all Asia and the world at large worshipped.” To arguments so cogent as these, who could be insensible? The craftsmen were one and all filled with indignation, and, rushing out, exclaimed as with one voice,“ Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” The populace joined in the clamour, and the whole city was filled with confusion. Read the narrative at large, as you have it in the nineteenth chapter of the Acts, and there you will find the uproar, vociferation, and noise, described in a much better manner than I am able to describe it, and find cause to bless God for the ordinance of magistracy, to which the servants of Christ were indebted for their preservation from the fury of the mob, who, had they not been restrained, would have torn them to atoms. The success of the apostle's ministry in this far-famed city was most astonishing. Soothsayers and magicians brought out their books of magical incantation, voluntarily confessed their deeds of witchcraft, committing their books to the flames, the value of which was computed at fifty thousand pieces of silver, or £7,500 sterling, an enormous sum in those days ; so mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.
We find the apostle, on one occasion, speaking of his having “fought with beasts at Ephesus ;" but whether this is to be understood literally, or taken in a figurative sense, may be questioned. Many learned men understand it in the former acceptation, and believe that he was condemned literally to
combat with wild beasts in the theatre “after the manner of men,” that is, according to the barbarous custom of the men of that age. Such persons were allowed to defend themselves ; if the lion or bear destroyed them, there was an end of them: if they conquered the beast, the judge of the games commonly granted their pardon. This mode of punishing offenders was a sport in the theatre to the public company. If this apostle was thus set forth last, appointed to death, a spectacle to the world, to angels, and men, he might well say as he does, in an epistle sent by him from Ephesus to the church at Corinth, soon after,—“In the trouble which befel us in Asia, we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life; but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead, who de livered us from so great a death, and doth still deliver,” 2 Cor. i. 8-10. The apostle remained at Ephesus some time after this ; but after the riot occasioned by Demetrius and the company of silversmiths, in which the Jews, with Alexander (the coppersmith), joined the idolatrous mob, he judged it prudent to retire into Macedonia, Acts xix.
Paul left Timothy, the evangelist, now about twenty-seven years of age, at Ephesus, for the purpose of organizing the church ; and, in an epistle written nominally to Timothy, he instructed him how he should behave himself in the house of God, what sort of men he should appoint to the offices of Elders and Deacons, and how all the church should regulate their faith, manners, and deportment. Most commentators think that Paul never returned to Ephesus ; but all allow that he went to Miletus, a few miles from Ephesus, where the Elders of the church met him, and where he took that affectionate leave of them which is recorded in Acts xx. This was in the year 58, soon after the apostle had written the first epistle to Timothy, and probably immediately after the church had been set in order with its Elders and Deacons. On that occasion he foretold them that, after his departure, grievous wolves would enter in among them, not sparing the flock, and that even of them.selves men would arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them, which came to pass about the time that he wrote the second epistle to Timothy. The apostle's warning
PAUL GOES UP TO JERUSALEM.
was, no doubt, of eminent service to them; for the church recovered its purity afterwards, and in the year 96, which was twenty-eight years after the departure of Paul, the apostle John wrote that letter to Ephesus which is recorded Rev. ii., and in which, with some complaints of having left their first love, the Lord Jesus nevertheless praises the purity of the church.
Having taken a most affectionate leave of his friends at Miletus, the apostle began to shape his course for Jerusalem, being desirous, if possible, to be there at the approaching feast of Pentecost. Accordingly, after touching at different places, he landed at Tyre, wherë, finding disciples, he abode with them seven days; in all probability that he might spend the first day of the week with them, and have his spirit refreshed with the ordinances of the Gospel. Thence he came to Cæsarea, where he continued several days, at the house of Philip, the evangelist. Both at Tyre and Cæsarea, the apostle received supernatural intimations of what was to befal him at Jerusalem, and his friends would fain have dissuaded him from going thither; but, though sensibly affected by the expressions of their love, all entreaty to change his purpose was vain. . “What mean ye to weep and break my heart,” said he ; “ for I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus," Acts xxi. 13.
From Cæsaréa to Jerusalem the apostle was accompanied by several of his friends, and arriving at the latter city he was very kindly received by the apostle James, the Elders of the church, and brethren in general ; to whom he rehearsed, in order, all the interesting things that God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry, which excited their unfeigned gratitude to God, to whom they gave the glory, ver. 16—20. .
It ought to be mentioned, in this place, that one reason' which the apostle had' for going up to Jerusalem, at this time, was to present to the church in that city the amount of a collection which had been made among the Gentile churches, for the relief of their poor brethren in Judæa, who were reduced to great straits and difficulties, in consequence of a famine which had prevailed throughout the country. There are frequent allusions to this, both in the Acts and apostolic epistles ; * and it was evi• Acts. xxiv. 17 ; Rom. xv. 25-28;1 Cor. xvi. 1—3; 2 Čor. viii. and ix ; Gal. ii. 10. dently a matter in which the great apostle of the Gentiles took a very lively interest.
There were, however, some circumstances in the existing state of things, which rendered the apostle's visit to Jerusalem at that moment a matter of considerable delicacy and danger; and, as this is a point which does not seem to be well understood by many in the present day, it may be useful to offer a brief explanation.
There were two classes of his own countrymen then in Jerusalem, whose prejudices the apostle had to encounter on this occasion. The first consisted of believing Jews-members of the Church in Jerusalem, and with them the case stood thus :They believed Jesus Christ to be the Messiah, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world; and believing this they were justified and adopted into the family of God. But the greater part of these persons did not perceive that Christ, by his death, had abrogated the old Covenant, and freed his disciples, even among the Jews, from all obligation to keep the law of Moses. They had been trained up in a reverence for that divine institution, and, though they believed in Christ who was the end of it, their consciences were still bound by its authority, nor could they bear to hear of any persons forsaking Moses. Paul, indeed, and a few others, clearly saw their liberty in this matter, and either observed the Jewish ritual or neglected it, as prudence dictated, and this is what the apostle refers to in 1 Cor. ix. 19–23. This state of affairs continued from the resurrection of Christ until Paul wrote the epistle to the Hebrews, during which there was no express written revelation freeing the minds of the Jewish converts from an obligation to keep the law; consequently they retained all their zeal for it. And this furnishes us with a key to what took place while the apostle was up at Jerusalem on this occasion. We are told that James and the elders of the church thus addressed him: “ Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of the Jews there are which believe, and they are all zealous of the law; and they are informed of thee that thou teachest all the Jews that are among the Gentiles to forsake. Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. What is to be done in this matter? The multitude must needs come together, for they
PAUL's Life ENDANGERED AT JERUSALEM.
will hear that thou art come. Conform thou on the present occasion, and give them proof that thou thyself walkest orderly and keepest the law.” The apostle complied and went into the Temple to perform a vow, and thus he met the prejudices of his believing brethren. But the consequence was only to subject him to the rage and malice of the unbelieving Jews, who, seeing him in the temple, recognized him as the man who taught the people every where to forsake the Temple and its worship.-The whole city was consequently moved, and the people ran together and seized Paul with an intention to put him to death, which they would speedily have effected, had he not been rescued by a band of soldiers. Acts ch. xxi.
When the uproar had subsided, the apostle obtained leave from the chief captain to address the multitude, in which, after rehearsing some particulars of his personal history, he narrates the circumstances of his conversion, and the commission which he had received from Christ to publish his Gospel among the Gentiles ;—but no sooner had he mentioned this than the unbelieving Jews lost all patience with him: “ they gave him audience” until he mentioned the word “ Gentiles," and then they lifted up their voices and said, “ Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live.” They now proceeded to wreak their vengeance on the apostlethey “cast off their clothes and threw dust into the air;” but the chief captain, aware of their murderous intentions, had the apostle conveyed into the castle, where he gave orders to examine hina by scourging ; but finding that he was a citizen of Rome, free-born, he abandoned the idea of scourging altogether, as a thing which the Roman law did not allow to any of its free citizens, and on the following day had him brought before the chief priests and council, to be by them examined.
The interesting events of the apostle's life, from this time to the period of his arrival as a prisoner at Rome, are detailed by the evangelist Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, from the twenty-second to the twenty-eighth chapter, inclusive, so that it is only necessary to direct the reader's attention to them. The narrative is so compressed and so affectingly related as to be incapable of abridgment, without doing manifest injustice to it, at the same time that it renders all comment unnecessary. On