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inheritance among them that are sanctified.
33 I have coveled no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. 34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. 35 I have shewed you all things, how that so lahouring ye ought to support the weak; and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
In the conclusion of St. Paul's discourse to the elders of the church at Ephesus, he vindicates himself from the sordid sin of covetousness, affirming, that he had coveted no man's silver or gold; but by tlie labour of his hands had maintained himself, and them that were with him. Where note, That it is not simply unlawful for a minister of the gospel to labour with his hands, for his own and his family's support, when the poverty of the members of the church is such tint they cannot maintain him without it. Observe farther, lie directs these elders to labour as he did, if the case required it with them, as it did with him, that they might, by labouring as he, be in a capacity to support the weak, and relieve the poor. Yet note, He doth not propose this his practice as a precept, or precedent, or rule, to all ministers; for though St. Paul laboured with his hands in a case of necessity, and because false teachers were watching all advantages against him, yet he often declares a right and privilege which he had to be maintained by the church, without labouring with his hands for his own livelihood and subsistence; nay, asserts it to be the ordination and appointment of God himself, That th«y which preach the gospel, should live of the gospel. Observe, lastly, A remarkable saying of our blessed Saviour, not recorded by the evangelists, but undoubtedly spoken by him; namely, That it is more blesscd to give than to receive. That is, the condition of the giver is more desirable than that of ihe receiver, and giving is more commendable than receiving. 1. The condition of the giver is more desirable than that of the receiver; because, 1. Giving is a sign of sufficiency and power. He that gives to another, is supposed to be well provided hunself; he that gives, looks like a full beiug, and like a swelling river; whereas,
receiving implies want and emptiness, and unsatisfied desires. 2. Because giving includes choice; for what a man parts with to another, he has a freedom to keep himself; but the receiver is not to be his own carver, but must depend upon the courtesy of his neighbours. 3 Because the condition of the giver implk? an honourable trust committed to him by God Almighty. Givers are God's almoner* and stewards, the poor's guardians and patrons. An honourable trust this is, by which the lives and livelihood of the poor arc in a manner committed to us. By all which it appears, that the condition of the giver is more desirable than that of the receiver. Note, 2. That giving is more commendable than receiving; it is a clearer evidence of a noble and virtuous disposition of mind: for, 1. It is a sign of our victory over the world, and that our conversation is in heaven; that we have worthy apprehensions of God, and honourable thoughts of his providence; and that we can trust him, and give him a part of his own whenever he calls for it. 2. Giving is better than receiving, because there is a more lasting pleasure in giving than in receiving: an alms taken is soon spent and forgotten, and the pleasure of it is over in two or three moments; but the pleasure of giving bears us company ah along in this world, and will keep us company in the next: there is no such satisfactory pleasure as in doing good. Let us then often remember, and always put in practice, the words of our Lord Jesus , which he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
36 And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. 37 And they all vent sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him; 38 Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.
Observe here, I. What a solemn and sacred farewell St. Paul and the elders of Ephesus take of each other: They kneeled down and prayed together; instead of a parting cup, here is a parting prayer, and this accompanied with tears: They ail -wept sore. There is a sufficient occasion for sorrow and weeping, when the church loses a faithful pastor; it is a public los?, and many are concerned in il. Observe, 2. How loth, how very loth, they were te part with the apostle, who had so exceedingly endeared himself unto them, by his holiness, humility, and universal usefulness. Accordingly they accompany him unto the ship, and when gone off to sea, send a long look after him; being more especially grieved at these words, That they should see his face no more. Learn thence, That a faithful minister of Christ is enjoyed with much love, and finally parted from with much sorrow, by those who believe and obey the gospel. Parting work is hard work: how hard is it for a husband and wife, for parents and children, to part! and perhaps it is as hard sometimes for ministers and people, who have lived in mutual endearments, to the glory of God, and singular comfort of each other, when they are pulled one from another alive by cruel persecutors, or when dying by the king of terrors. The parting is sad; but, blessed be God, the next meeting mill know no parting. When ministers and people meet together at the right hand of God in heaven, they shall never part more, but shall for ever be with the Lord.
The chapter before us acquaints us with St. Paul's dangerous voyage to Jerusalem, and enumerates the several places through which he passed in his journey thither; namely, through Coos and Rhodes, Phenicia, Ptoleroais, Tyre, Cesarea, through many parts of Europe and Asia; and at last arrives safely at Jerusalem. O blessed apostle! what tongue can declare, what pen can set forth, the pains which thou tookest, aod the hazards which thou didst run, in preaching the glad tidings of the gospel to the heathen world! And who can sufficiently magnify and holily admire the conduct of divine providence, in carry, ing Ihec cheerfully through all the difficulties of life, and enabling thee to finish thy course with joy 1 Lord! who would not be found faithful in thy service, who tasest such an uninterrupted and unremitting care of thy servants, that safely evermore accompanies duty.
A ND it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara. 2 And finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, we went aboard, and set forth.
The latter end of the foregoing chapter acquainted us with the sorrowful and heavy parting of the elders and church of Epliesus from the holy apostle. Now, the first verse of this chapter informs us, that it was
not less sorrowful on the apostle's and his companions' part. So much the word here imports, Afler we vcre gotten from them, airooxaoOitrrac air avruiv :" Alter we were torn from, and pulled as it were limb from limb from each other;" intimating the mutual endearments which were between them whilst together, and that inexpressible sorrow which was found amongst them at their parting. Verily, there is no stronger love, nor more endeared affections, betwixt any relations upon the earth, than betwixt the ministers of Christ and such of their people as they have been instrumental to bring home to God. Spiritual affections are stronger than natural; the removing of a spiritual father by death, or otherwise, is like tearing limb from limb; yea, like rending the head from the body. Lord, with what great difficulty and deep reluctancy did the holy apostle and the church of Ephesus here part from one another! They were pulled and torn one from another, as the word imports.
3 Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden. 4 And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.
The divine Providence is not more signally discovered in governing the motions of the clouds, than it is in ordering the spirits and motions of his ministers. The motion of the clouds is not spontaneous and from themselves, but they move as they are moved by the winds; neither can the ministers of Christ choose their own stations, and govern their own motions, but must go when and whither the Spirit and providence of God directs and guides them; as evidently appears by St. Paul's present voyage to Jerusalem: though the journey was full of danger, yet his spirit was fully bent and set upon it: I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem. It was happy for the apostle, and his great advantage, that the will of God was so plainly revealed to him, touching this his journey to Jerusalem; for no sooner did he prepare himself to obey the call of God, and to undertake the journey, but he is presently assaulted by many strong temptations to decline it. The first rub he met with in his way, was from the disciples at Tyre, -who spake by the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. But did not theSpirit of God then contradict itself, in hidding tne apostle go, and then speaking to him by thosedisciples not to go? Not at all; St. Paul by extraordinary revelation was commanded to go to Jerusalem; these disciples, by a spirit of prophecy, only foretold the difficulties and dangers that would attend him in his journey; and so, through kmdness and human affection, they dissuaded him from undertaking it. We must distinguish between the prediction of trouble, and tlie counsel of safety. The prediction of trouble; so they said through the Spirit, that it would be dangerous for Paul to go to Jerusalem. Tlie counsel of safety proceeded from their private love and affection to him; whereby they dissuaded him from going to Jerusalem. Learn from hence, 1. That divine precept, and not providence, is to rule our way to duty. Learn, 2. That no discouragements or hinderances whatsoever will justify our neglect of a commanded duty. Whatever difficulties or discouragements lay in the way of the apostle's duty, he overcame them all with an heroic and truly christian resolution, saying, ver. 13. Iam ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalemfor the name of Jesus.
5 And when we had accomplished those days, we departed, and went our way: and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed, 6 And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned homo again. 7 And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day. 8 And the next day, we that were of Paul's company departed, and came to Cesarea: and we entered into the houseof Philip the Evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode w ith him. 0 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.
Observe here, I. That nothing could divert the apostle from his intended journey to Jerusalem: the report of sufferings
was no discouragement to him, nor could me persuasive intreaties of his friends prevail with him. Seeing therefore he was resolved to go on, they all of them with their wives and children, to testify their great respect and affection to him, accompany him out of the city ; and he and they kneeling down on the shore, pray together, and take their farewell of each other. The loving communion of saints, and prayer, are the marks of Christ's true disciples. Observe, 2. The apostle's next remove towards Jerusalem was from Tyre to Cesarea, where he lodges with Philip the evangelist; that is, one of them who were sent forth as itinerary preachers, here and there to dispense the gospel, and to confirm the churches. And one of the seven; that is, one of the seven deacons. Acts vi. Here note, That this Philip, in whose house St. Paul now lodged, was before driven out of his house by Paul's persecution. See Acts viii. 1, &c. There was a great persecution against the church, and they -wcre all scattered abroad; and Philip went down to Samaria. This Philip, who was driven out of his house by Paul, when a persecutor, gladly received him into bis house, being now Paul a convert; and this without any upbraiding, yea, without the least mention of what he had formerly been or done. It is an ill office to rake in the filth which God has covered, and to reproach men with or for the sins which God has pardoned; it argues some degree of envy at the grace of God, to upbraid men with the sins committed before conversion. Former miscarriages and injuries should be forgiven and forgotten upon true repentance, and we should receive them into our embraces whom Christ has taken into his bosom: Paul went into the house of Philip the evangelist.
10 And as we tarried there manydays, there came down from Judea a certain prophet, named Agabus. 11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bonnd his own hands and feet, and said. Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem hind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.
Observe here, 1. That during the apostle's stay at Cesarea in Philip's house, a certam prophet named Agabus comes thither, and prophesieth of St. Paul's bonds at Jerusalem. Where note, That though Agabus was a prophet, yet by what appeareth of him in scripture he was always a prophet of evil - things, and bad tidings; he foretold the famine before, Acts xi. and Paul's bonds now. Such messengers of God, as give warnings of judgments to come, should and ought to be accepted, as well as they that bring us hopes of mercy and deliverance; that message may be true, which yet is displeasing. Observe, 2. Agabus useth a sign after the manner of the old prophets, who often prophesied by symbols and significant expressions, that they might the better imprint their predictions on the hearts of men. Thus Isaiah went naked and bare-foot, to show what the people of Israel should meet with under the king of Assyria, Isa. xx. And Ezekiel was to pack up his stuff, and remove, to signify the people s removal into captivity, Ezek. xii. It pleased God to teach his people by visible signs, as well as by word of mouth; that what was received by both senses, seeing and hearing, might make the deeper impression upon their minds. In like manner here Agabus uses a sign; he takes St. Paul's girdle, and hinds his own hands and feet with it, signifying, that afier that manner the Jews at Jerusalem would hind the apostle, and deliver him to the Gentiles; first to the Homan governor of Judea, and afterwards to Nero the Roman emperor. From whence we may remark, The great goodness and condescension of God, in giving the apostle so many warnings of his bonds; the Holy Ghost first made it known to him, Acts xx. That bonds and afflictions did abide him. The disciples at Tyre prophesied the same, Acts xxi. 5. And here Agabus, by a sensible sign, makes it known to him; and all this, that he might thoroughly be prepared for a suffering condition. God doth not love to take his children unprovided; St. Paul therefore was not surprised, but had warning upon warning of his present danger. If a sudden and unexpected flood of miseries and calamities break in upon us, for afflictions seldom go single, it is not because we want warning, but because we are not so wise as to take warning. When we are well and at ease, we will not think of death and the cross; and therefore, if we be surprised and unprovided, we may thank our own security. Our apostle here being fore-warned, was fore-armed
12 And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, What mean yc to weep, and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. 14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, say. ing, The will of the Lord be done.
Observe here, 1. The entire affection of the disciples to the holy apostle; Both we and tkey of that place besought him, that he would not go up to Jerusalem. Learn, That the lives and liberties of those who are eminent instruments of God's glory, are very dear and precious to the faithful servants of God. Who can blame St. Paul's companions or the disciples here, for desiring and endeavouring the preservation of so precious an instrument as the apostle was? and yet it is not improbable but Satan might have a hand in this matter, and endeavour by the apostle's friends' persuasion to weaken his resolution; for the devil oft endeavoureth to take us off from our duty by the entreaties of our friends, who mean well in what they say. Thus when St. Peter lovingly advised our Saviour against his sufferings, Be it Jar from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee, Matt. xvi. Get thee behind me, Satan, says Christ. It was Peter's tongue, but Satan tuned it. Who would have thought that Christ's disciples should have been Satan's instruments? We must not measure our friends' counsel by their good meaning, but by God's word; we must be deaf to all relations, that we may discharge our duty to God. Thus we find the apostle here, He would not be persuaded, but expostulates with them, What mean ye to weep, and to break mine heart? Observe, 2. St Paul's entire affection to God, and his firm resolution for his duty: He would not be persuaded. But did the apostle do well in this, to withstand all the importunities, and reject the unanimous advice, of all his friends? How doth this carriage agree with that character of heavenly wisdom, Jam. iii. 17. That it is eaiy to be entreated? I answer, To the practice of our duty, it is praise-worthy to be easy to be entreated; but nolfrom our duty. St. Paul knew his duty, and understood the will of God: and therefore his friends might sooner break his heart, than break his purpose. Learn hence, That no persuasions of friends, no apprehensions of danger, should ever be able to turn us out of the way of our duty. When Peter dissuaded Christ from suffering, our Saviour rebuked him with the same indignation as he did the devil tempting him to idolatry. Observe, 3. How the aposile lovingly and gently rebukes their fond and inordinate sorrow for his departure: What mean ye to weep, and to break mine heart? As if he had said, " What mean these passionate tears and entreaties? Alas! whether you think it so or not, they are but so many snares and temptations of Satan, to turn my feet out of the way of obedience: you do as much as in you lies to break my heart; but, by the grace of God, nothing shall break me off from my purpose, nor weaken my courage and resolution for God." When a saint is once satisfied in the call and command of God to any duty, he fears neither impending nor approaching dangers in the way of duty. Observe, 4. The apostle's quieting and calming arguments, with which he labours to charm their unruly passions: I am ready both to be bound, and to die for Christ. I am ready, 1. That is, God hath fitted me for suffering-work: flesh and blood is overruled in me by the Spirit of God; I am prepared for whatever God pleaseth; be it a prison, be it a scaffold, be it life, be it death, I am provided for both. Liberty is dear, and liie is dear, but Christ is dearer than either: therefore what mean you to work against the design of God, who hath fitted and prepared ray heart for suffering-service > I am ready, 2. That is, my will and resolution stands in a full bent: my heart is fixed,—my friends, my heart is fixed; do not therefore disorder and discompose my spirits, by casting such temptations and stumbling-blocks in my way; for I am come to a point, nothing shall divert me from this noble enterprise for God. I am ready, 3. That is, fully determined to comply with the call and command of God; whatever befalls me, I am not so solicitous about that: my Captain that leads me on, I am sure, will bring me off safe, either dead or alive. Therefore all your tears and entreaties arc but cast away upon me; ye had bettei be quiet, and cheerfully resign me up to the will of God; for I am ready both to be bound and to die. From whence learn, That it is a blessed and excellent frame of spirit, when the ser
vants of God are prepared and ready for the hardest services and sharpest sufferings, to which the Lord may at any time call them: I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. Observe, 5. The disciples' discretion: When he would not be persuaded, they ceased: that is, they gave over their importunities, and urged him no farther beyond his own inclinations and resolutions. It is the disposition of humble spirits to submit to those that are wiser than themselves, and not to be too stiff and |>eremptory in their own opinions and conceits; a lesson which most men have great need to learn. Observe, 6. The pious ground of this their discretion; namely, acquiescence in the divine will: The will of the Lord be done. They refer the event to God's determination, and submit all to his sovereign pleasure. Thence learn, That it is the duty and desire, and ought to be the care and endeavour, of all the children of God, to be willing to sub. mit themselves and theirs to the dispensation of God's providence, in whatever befalls either them or theirs. For this we have Christ's example, Matt. xxvi. 39, Father, not as I mil, but as thou -zsilt. The example of David, 2 Sam. xv. 26, Here am I, let him do -what scemeth good in his sight. The example of Eli, I Sara, i. 18, // is the Lord, let him do whatsoever he pleaseth. Such is his jusiice and righteousness, that he can do his children no wrong; and such is his tender mercy and loving kindness, that lie will do them no harm. The absolute sovereignty of God over us, and the sight of God in all his providential dispensations towards us, influences at once our judgments, our wills, and our affections, our expressions and actions, that we neither dare to think, speak, or act any thing in contradiction to, or in opposition against, the wisdom and will of God. That which is oft against our will, is not always against our interest; but if we belong to God, all afflictions upon us are federal dispensations and covenant blessings to us, and either arc good or shall work for good; therefore it is both our duty and interest to submit to the wisdom of Providence, and say with these disciples, The will of the Lord he done.
15 And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem. 10 There went with ua