also certain of the disciples of Cesarea, and brought with them one Miiason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge. 17 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. 19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord ;—

The apostle having boldly resolved, that conic life, or come death, he would be obedient to the call of God by his Spirit, and that nothing should divert him from his intended journey to Jerusalem, sets forward from Cesarea to Jerusalem, accompanied with certain disciples of Cesarea, who brought him to the house of one Mnason, an old disciple, who had long ago received the faith, and now lived at Jerusalem, in whose house the apostle lodged. Here note, What a badge of honour is put upon Mnason, even that of being an old disciple ; to be an old man is an honour, but to be an old disciple is a double honour: it has a resemblance of him who is the Ancient of Days. Where antiquity and piety, where agedness and holiness, do concur, it renders a person as like the Divine Majesty as can be expected on this side glory. To be an old disciple is a greater honour than to be a king or emperor. Observe next, The apostle being come to Jerusalem, is kindly received of the church there: he enters the house of St. James, the hishop of Jerusalem, where the elders that were present congratulate his arrival, and he relates to them what great things God had wrought by his ministry, and they all gave praise to God for the great and glorious success of the gospel. Learn hence, That all christians in general, but the ministers of Christ in special, ought to make a particular declaration of the great and marvellous works which the Lord hath wrought for them, and by them. Thus did St. Paul here; he was very particular, no doubt, in relating the mighty works of God in the conversion of the Gentiles by his ministry from time to time, and from place to place ; and all this, not to extol himself, but to exalt God for receiving the

Gentiles into the faith and fellowship of the gospel.

—And said unto them, Thou secst, brother-, how mauy thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: 21 And they are informed of thec, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying, That they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. 22 What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. 23 Do therefore this that we say to thee: we have four men which have a vow on them; 24 Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know, that those things whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing, but that thyself also walkest orderly, and kecpest the law. 25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written, and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.

We had Paul's report to the church at Jerusalem, of the success which God had given him in his ministry amongst the Gentiles; this is related in the foregoing paragraph of the chapter. In these verses before us, we have the church's reply to the apostle's relation, They glorified God; first, for the great success given to the word of his grace amongst the Gentiles; and withal they acquaint him with the like success, which the preaching of the gospel had amongst the Jews: Thou sees/, brother, how maily thousands of Jews there are which do believe; the original runs, how maini tens of thousands do believe; which intimates the great and wonderful success of the gospel. Well might our Saviour compare it to a grain of mustard-seed, seeing it had spread itself far and near in so short a time. If we consider the smallness of its beginning, the despicablcness of the instruments, the shortness of the time, the obstinacy and prejudices of the Jews against the gospel, and yet remark the vast number of thousands and ten thousands of the Jews that did already believe, embrace, and entertain it; we need not wonder that St . Paul, 1 Tim. iii. 16. reckons it as one of the greatest mysteries of godliness, that Jesus Christ was preached to the Gentiles, and believed on in the world. That is, that so many thousands both of Jews and Gentiles were brought to own him, and submit to him as Lord and Saviour. Observe next, The advice given by the church at Jerusalem to St. Paul, concerning the Jews which did believe in that place. It seems the Jews, though they had received the gospel, yet thought that the ceremonial law must still be observed; therefore, in condescension to their weakness, and to prevent their taking offence, they advise the apostle, not as a thing necessary in itself, but as an expediency in reference to their weakness, to conform himself to some of the Jewish ceremonies and purifications; for though they were not then needful, yet they were not then unlawful; they might then be used, when the use of them would any ways conduce to the gaining and bringing over the Jews to a love of christianity. The synagogue was not hastily to be cast out of the church, like the Heathenish superstitions; but to die by degrees, and be decently interred. Here note, That the law of Moses, as to its moral part, Christ continued as his law : the ceremonial part, as to the use of types and ceremonies, signifying him that was to come, this was abrogated at Christ's coming; and the political part ceased, when the Jewish polity was dissolved: but the abrogation of the whole was not fully made known at the first, but by degrees; and the exercise of it long tolerated to the Jews. Observe, lastly, The particular advice which they give the apostle, to go into the temple, and perform the legal ceremony of purification: We have four men which have a vow; them take, and purify thyself, that all may know that thou walkest orderly, and keeprst the law. That is, " Seeing we have four men here which have a Nazarite's vow upon them, the time of which vow is now expired, and they are to shave themselves ceremoniously in the temple; go thou with them, and perform the legal ceremony of purification there, that the people may know that the report of thee is not true; but that thou, being a Jew,

dost thyself keep the law." Here we observe the truth of what St . Paul « declared, that to the Jews he became as a Jew, that he might gain the Jews, yea, became all things to all men, that he might gain some. A noble pattern for the ministers of the gospel to write after, in yielding, so far as we may without sin or scandal, to the weakness of others, in order to the furtherance of the great ends of our ministry among our people: To the Jews I became as a Jew.

20 Then Paul took the men; and the next day purifying himself with them, entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them. 27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, 28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help : this is the man that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, anil this place: and further, brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. 29 (For they had seen before with him, in the city, Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) 30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple. And forthwith the doors were shut.

Observe here, 1. That at the instance and importunity of his friends, St. Paul is persuaded to purify himself in the temple; partly to gain upon the affections of the believing Jews, who were still zealous of the law ; and partly to confute the false aspersions of them that reported him to be against all ceremonial observances. If any had grudged that, after the coming of the gospel, so much cost should be bestowed on the law, and say, with murmuring Judas, To what purpose was this waste? the law might truly answer with our Saviour, and say, " He did it for my burial, and for the more solemn interment of me." . Observe, 2. How blind was the zeal, and how furious the rage, of the unbelieving Jews, against the apostle! They seek, and because they could not find, they take an occasion to vent their malice upon him . accordingly they put the whole city of Jerusalem into an uproar, upon a pretence that he had brought Trophimus, a Gentile, into the temple, to profane and pollute it; and in their blind rage they dragged the apostle out of the temple, as a protaner of it. Well might the apostle say lie was in deaths often, 2 Cor. xi. 23. He was now in danger to be pulled in pieces by this tumult, and of being made a sacrifice to the fury of the rabble; but God, who never wants ways and means for the seasonable succour and relief of his faithful servants, in an unexpected manner, and by unthought-of means, rescued the apostle from the jaws of death and danger, as the next verses inform us.

31 And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar; 32 Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: And when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul. 33 Then the chief captain came near, and took him, ami commanded him to he bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done.

34 And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle.

35 And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers, for the violence of the people. 36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him!

Note here, 1. How the great and gracious God provideth seasonable rescues for his persecuted and perplexed saints and servants: When they went about to kill Paul, God raises him up a deliverer. Note, 2. The unexpected instrument of the apostle's deliverance, and that was an heathen governor. The Romans never durst trust such vast multitudes at Jewish

festivals without a strong garrison to be a check upon them; accordingly the governor, having tidings of the tumult, brings down a band of soldiers, to see the peace kept; he rescues the injured apostle out of their hands, commands him to be bound with two chains, as Agabns had foretold, and the soldieis bear him up in their arms from the violence of the people. Hence we learn, 1. That a bad government, even an heathen government, is better than anarchy. Under a tyrannical government many may be uneasy, but under popular rage none can be long at rest. Learn, 2. That heathens are oftentimes the protectors of christians against the blind rage of those that profess to worship the same God. St. Paul and these unbelieving Jews worshipped the same God, and yet the heathen soldiers were fain by force to carry and guard the apostle from the fury of the bloody unbelieving Jews. Thus God raiseth up what instruments he pleaseth to subserve his own gracious ends and designs in the preservation of his people. The barbarous heathen soldiers protect St. Paul, and keep him from being torn in pieces by the Jews, who worshipped the same God with him.

37 And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? 38 Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? 39 But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and 1 beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people. 40 And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people: and when there was made a great silence, he spake unto thtm. in the Hebrew tongue, saying,

Observe, 1. The justice which the chief captain, though an heathen soldier, doth St. Paul: he demands what he had done, before he punishes him. Au heathen would hear the cause before ne condemns the person ; a piece of justice which the law of nature requires and obliges to. Observe, 2. The unjust suspicion which the chief captam had of St. Paul's being a very bad man; Art not thou that Egyptian which madest an uproar, and led jest out four thousand men that were murderers? Here St. Paul without cause is suspected for a rebel, a seducer, and a murderer, by the chief captain. It is not in the power of the most unspotted innocency to protect from jealousies and suspicion, from censure and calumny, from slander and false accusation. The peaceable apostle is suspected for a turbulent incendiary, Art not thou the Egyptian that modest an uproar? Observe, 3. The just and necessary apology which St. Paul makes for himself: I am a Jew of Tarsus, a citizen of no mean city. Where note, 1. He describes his original; I am a Jew, not that wicked Egyptian which you expected me to be, but a Jew of a religious and noble extraction. Learn thence, That to be descended from religious and noble ancestors, is a desirable privilege and singular prerogative. St. Paul was a Jew, descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the holy patriarchs. Note, 2. He describes the country where he was born: he was born in Cilicia, a rich and fruitful country in Asia. Learn thence, That to be born in a rich and fruiifn' ountry (if godly and religious) is a very considerable favour and privilege; it was not blind chance and fortune, but a wise and merciful providence of God, which appointed both the place of our hirth, and determined the bounds of our hahitation. What mercy is it that we were born, not in Spain, not in Turkey, not in a land of darkness, but in a valley of vision! If the Spaniards have the golden mines, we have the golden treasure ol the scriptures, more to be desired than gold,yea, than much fine gold, Psal. xix. Note, 3. He describes, not only his country, but his native city, and the dignity of it: he was born in Tarsus, a citizen of no mean city, it being the metropolis or chief city of all Cilicia: in this famous city was the apostle born. Learn thence, That to lie horn in a noble, free, and famous city, especially if religious, is a desirable favour and privilege. St. Paul was born in the noble city of Tarsus; but how could he then say as he did, Acts xxii. that he was a Roman? Answer, So he was; but not by hirth, but by immunity nnd privilege. Tarsus was invested with the Roman privileges, and made free of Rome by M. Antonius: thus Paul was free born, and declared lliat they ought not to scourge a Roman citizen. Note,

lastly, That though the forementioned privileges are considerable privileges, namely, to be descended from noble ancestors, to be born in a famous country, and in a free city, (passages of divine Providence not to be overlooked or disregarded, but very highly valued and thankfully acknowledged ;) yet must it be remembered, that all these are but outward and temporal privileges, common to the worst, as well as the best of men; such privileges as a man may enjoy, and yet be under the wrath of God, and the guilt of eternal damnation. Let us labour to be nobly minded, as well as nobly descended—by regeneration born from above; otherwise we are low born, mean born, be our parents never so high. Thus the chapter concludes with an account of the apostle's eminent preservation in a time of imminent danger: when likely to ha\e been torn la pieces by the riotous rabble, God stirs up the chief captain, an heathen, belonging to the bloody trade of war, to rescue oppressed innocency; and the guard of soldiers, who had no manner of affection for Paul, God sets as a life-guard about his person, they bear him up in their arms, give him liberty to speak for himself; and his apology, or defensative plea, we have recorded in tbe following chapter.


tn the close of the foregoing chapter, ve have tbe apostle craving leave of the chief captain to apeak onto tbe people, who, without any just cause, bad made a violent assault upon his, and attempted to take away hia life. Libersy of speech being granted him, he stands aima the stain, near tbe gate of tbe castle o which be was a prisoner, makes a sign 10 tbe people to hoid their peace, and, when lbey gave aodience, in tbe Hebrew tongue he thus bespeaks them.

j^JEN, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence, which I make now unto you. 2 (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence : and he saith,) 3 I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, vet brought up in this city, at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. 4 And I persecuted this way unto the death, hinding and delivering into prisons both men and women. 5 As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the ciders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there, bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.

Here begins the apostle's apology, or defensative plea, which he makes for himself before the people at Jerusalem, who, in the foregoing chapter, had so injuriously treated him. In which apologetical narration, we have these particulars observable: First, observe, With what lenity and mildness he bespeaks his cruel and pestilent persecutors, the people of the Jews; he accosts them with titles of respect and honour, Men, brethren, and fathers; not with opprobrious invectives; he doth not render evil for evil, or railing for railing; he had not so learned Christ, he knew how to suffer reproach for the gospel; but to prosecute his persecutors with hard names and characters of reproach, was a piece of zeal, which St. Paul and the holy sufferers of those times were little acquainted with. Observe, 2. How the apostle insinuates himself unto his auditors, that so he might gain their attention to what was spoken: Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye, I pray, my defence which I make unto you. There is a lawful and pious insinuation for gaining the attention of our auditors, which the ministers of Christ may and ought to make use of; as the workman that would drive his nail, dips it in oil. We gain our auditors' attention by courteous and loving compellations: Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken Observe, 3. The apology or plea itself, in which he sets before them, 1. His extraction, lam a Jew, born in Tarsus. 2. His education, brought up at the feet of Gamaliel. 3. His profession, he -was zealous towards God; that is, he was one of the sect among the Jews which were called Zealots, and was very strict and exact in the observation of the law, a hitter enemy to christianity, and a bloody persecutor of all that owned themselves the disciples of Jesus, as the high-priest very well knows, says he, from whom I received a commission, that if I found any of this way, whether men or women, I should bring them bound unto Jerusalem. Here note, That Damascus was five or six days' journey from Jerusalem; yet Paul,

when a persecutor, sticks not at it, but spurs on through fire and water to glutwhis malice and revenge on the poor members of Jesus Christ. Learn thence, That persecutors will spare neither purse nor pains, they will stick and stop at nothing, though never so toilsome and hazardous, so they may but satisfy their revenge upon the poor disciples of Jesus Christ: I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prison both men and women.

6 And it came to pass, that as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. 7 And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 8 And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. 9 And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.

Our apostle having related what he was before his conversion in the foregoing verses, in these and the following verses he declares the manner of his conversion, namely, That when he was travelling to Damascus to pursue his persecuting design, a great light shined round about him, upon which he fell to the ground, and heard these words articulately spoken to him: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Where observe, That Christ takes the opposition made against his gospel, and the persecution carried on against his members, as done unto himself; it being against his friends, his cause, and interest: as the honour done unto the Head redounds unto the members, so the wrongs and injuries offered to the members, are resented by the Head. Christ said not thus (when upon earth) unto his murderers, Why bind ye me? Why buffet ye me? Why scourge ye me, and crucify me .* But now, when his members suffered, he cries out from heaven, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou uie .* Lord, thou art more tender of thy body mystical, than thou wast of thy body natural; more sensible of thy members' sufferings, than of thine own! Observe next, How ready the a|x>stlc was to understand and know, and

« ElőzőTovább »