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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 28 - Verse 31
With all confidence. Openly and boldly, without any one to hinder him. It is known, also, that Paul was not unsuccessful even when a prisoner at Rome. Several persons were converted by his preaching even in the court of the emperor. The things which had happened to him, he says, Php 1:12-14, had fallen out rather to the furtherance of the gospel, so that his bonds in Christ were manifested in all the palace, and in all other places; and many brethren in the Lord, says he, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. In this situation he was remembered with deep interest by the church of Philippi, who sent Epaphroditus to him with a contribution to supply his wants. Of their kindness he speaks in terms of the tenderest gratitude in Php 2:25; 4:18. During his confinement, also, he was the means of the conversion of Onesimus, a runaway slave of Philemon, of Colosse in Phrygia, Phm 1:10 whom he sent back to his master with a letter to himself, and with an epistle to the church at that place. Col 4:8,9,18.
During this imprisonment he wrote, according to Lardner, the following epistles, in the following order and time, viz :—
Ephesians, April, A. D ............................... 61
2 Timothy, May .................................... 61
Philippians, before the end of ........................62
Colossians .......................................... 62
Philemon .......................................... 62
Hebrews, spring of ................................. 63
Here closes the inspired account of the propagation of Christianity, of the organization of the Christian church, and of the toils and persecutions of the apostle Paul. Who can but be deeply affected when he comes to the conclusion of this inspired book of revivals, and of the history of the spread of the Christian religion, and of the account of that wonderful man—the apostle Paul? Who can help heaving the sigh of regret, that this interesting historian did not carry forward the history of Paul till his death; and that henceforward, in the history of the church, we want this faithful, inspired guide; and that, from the close of this book, everything becomes at once so involved in obscurity and uncertainty? Instead, however, of pouring forth the sigh of unavailing regret that the sacred historian has carried us no farther onward, we should rather speak the language of praise that he has given, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, a history of the church for thirty years after the ascension of the Saviour; that he has recorded the accounts of the first great revivals of religion; that he has presented us the examples of the early missionary zeal; that he has informed us how the early Christians endured persecution and toil; that he has conducted us from land to land, and from city to city, showing us everywhere how the gospel was propagated, until we are led to the seat of the Roman power, and see the great apostle of Christianity there proclaiming, in that mighty capital of the world, the name of Jesus as the Saviour of men. Perhaps there could be no more appropriate close to the book of the inspired history, than thus to have conducted the apostle of the Gentiles, and to have recorded the spread of Christianity, to the capital of the Roman world, and to leave the principal agent in the establishment of the Christian religion in that seat of intelligence, and influence, and power. It is the conducting of Christianity to the very height of its earthly victories; and having shown its power in the provinces of the empire, it was proper for the inspired author of this ecclesiastical history to close the account with the record of its achievements in the capital.
Why Luke closed his history here is not known. It may have been that he was not afterwards the companion of Paul; or that he might have been himself removed by death. It is agreed on all hands that he did not attend Paul in his subsequent travels; and we should infer, from the conclusion of this book, that he did not survive the apostle, as it is almost incredible, if he did, that he did not mention his release and death. It is the uniform account of antiquity, that Luke, after the transactions with which the Acts of the Apostles closes, passed over into Achaia, where he lived a year or two, and there died at the age of eighty-four years.
Everything in regard to the apostle Paul, after the account with which Luke closes this book, is involved in doubt and uncertainty. By what means he was set at liberty is not known; and there is a great contradiction of statements in regard to his subsequent travels, and even the time of his death. It is generally agreed, indeed, that he was set at liberty in the year of our Lord 63. After this, some of the Fathers assert that he travelled over Italy, and passed into Spain. But this account is involved in great uncertainty. Lardner, who has examined all the statements with care, and than whom no one is better qualified to pronounce an opinion on these subjects, gives the following account of the subsequent life of Paul. (Works, vol. v. 331—336. Ed. Loud. 1829.) He supposes that, after his release, he went from Rome to Jerusalem as soon as possible; that he then went to Ephesus, and from thence to Laodicea and Colosse; and that he returned to Rome by Troas, Philippi, and Corinth. The reason why he returned to Rome, Lardner supposes, was that he regarded that city as opening before him the widest and most important field of labour; and that therefore he proposed there to spend the remainder of his life.
In the year of our Lord 64, a dreadful fire happened at Rome, which continued for six or seven days. It was generally supposed that the city had been set on fire by order of the emperor Nero. In order to divert the attention of the people from this charge against himself, he accused the Christians of having been the authors of the conflagration, and excited against them a most furious and bloody persecution. In this persecution, it is generally supposed that Paul and Peter suffered death; the former by being beheaded, and the latter by crucifixion. Paul is supposed to have been beheaded rather than crucified, because he was a Roman citizen, and because it was unlawful to put a Roman citizen to death on a cross. Lardner thinks that this occurred in the year 65. Where Paul was beheaded is not certainly known. It is generally supposed to have occurred at a place called the Salvian Waters, about three miles from Rome, and that he was buried in the Ostian Way, where a magnificent church was afterwards built. But of this there is no absolute certainty.
It is far more important and interesting for us to be assured, from the character which he evinced, and from the proofs of his zeal and toil in the cause of the Lord Jesus, that his spirit rested in the bosom of his Saviour and his God. Wherever he died, his spirit, we doubt not, is in heaven. And where that body rested at last, which he laboured "to keep under," and which he sought to bring "into subjection," 1 Co 9:27, and which was to him so much the source of conflict and of sin, Ro 7:5,23 is a matter of little consequence. It will be watched and guarded by the eye of that Saviour whom he served, and will be raised up to eternal life. In his own inimitable language, it was sown in corruption, it shall be raised in incorruption; it was sown in dishonour, it shall be raised in glory; it was sown in weakness, it shall be raised in power; it was sown a natural body, it shall be raised a spiritual body, 1 Co 15:42-44. And in regard to him, and to all other saints, when that corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and that mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory," 1 Co 15:54. To Paul now, what are all his sorrows, and persecutions, and toils in the cause of his Master? What but a source of thanksgiving that he was permitted thus to labour to spread the gospel through the world? So may we live, imitating his life of zeal, and self-denial, and faithfulness, that, when he rises from the dead, we may participate with him in the glories of the resurrection of the just!
BRIEF ANALYSIS OF THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
CONDENSED FROM THE LATE REV. JOHN BROWN, OF HADDINGTON \- I.—Brief history of Christ after his death, 1—8; his ascension to heaven, 9—11. The disciples' return to Jerusalem, 12—14. Peter relates the history of Judas' wickedness and ruin; Matthias chosen an apostle by lot, 15—26.
II.—The Holy Ghost poured out upon the disciples, 1—4. Multitudes crowd to see and hear them; part are astonished, and others deride, 5—13. Peter vindicates himself and brethren, and shows that this was promised by Joel, and bestowed in consequence of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, 14—36. Three thousand converted to Christ, 37—41. These primitive Christians remarkably pious and charitable, and God blesses them, 42—47.
III.—Peter and John cure a lame man by a word, 1—11. Peter takes occasion to represent Christ's power, and their sin in crucifying him, 12—18. He exhorts and encourages them to repent and believe in him, 19—26.
IV.—Peter and John are imprisoned; but five thousand are converted to Christ, 1—4. Being examined touching their cure of the lame man, they avow that they had done it by the authority and power of Jesus Christ, 8—12. The Jewish rulers dismiss them, and prohibit them from preaching, 13—22. The two apostles and brethren ask of God further operations of his grace; and are answered by a repeated descent of the Holy Ghost, 23—31. The believers knit together in love, and abound in piety and charity, 31—37.
V.—Ananias and Sapphira struck dead, 1—11. The apostles work many miracles, 12—16. Are again imprisoned, but delivered by an angel, and go on in preaching, 17—25. Being again brought before the sanhedrim, they boldly avow Jesus to be the exalted Messiah, 26—33. By the advice of Gamaliel, they are dismissed, after being scourged, 34—40. They depart, rejoicing in their persecution, and proceed in their work of preaching Christ, 41, 42.
VI.—Seven deacons chosen and ordained for the distribution of alms, 1—6. Many priests and others converted; Stephen actively bestirs himself for Christ —is disputed against, accused, and appears before the sanhedrim, 7—15.
VII.—By an historical account of the Hebrew nation under Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, 1—16: under Moses, 17—4!: under Joshua, David, and Solomon, 44—50: and under their judges and kings, 42; 43: Stephen shows that the temple and ceremonies were but typical; and that, for their wickedness, God had threatened to disperse their nation. He charges his persecutors with wickedness, 51—53. Enraged, they stone him to death; he commits himself to Christ, and prays for his murderers, 54—60,
VIII.—While Stephen is buried and lamented, the Christians at Jerusalem are terribly persecuted by Saul and others, 1—3. The church enlarged by the dispersion of the persecuted preachers, who spread the gospel abroad; particularly Philip in Samaria, 4—13. Peter and John confirm the new converts there, and reprove Simon, 14—25. Philip converts and baptizes the Ethiopian eunuch, 26—38. The eunuch joyfully pursues his journey homeward; Philip preaches along the western borders of Canaan, 39,40.
IX.—Saul, going to persecute the Christians at Damascus, is, by Christ's voice from heaven, converted, 1—9. After some reluctance, Ananias baptizes him, 10—19. Saul preaches Christ at Damascus, 20—22. The Jews attempt to murder him, and he narrowly escapes, 23—25. After three years, he is admitted among the Christians at Jerusalem, 26—28. To escape the fury of the Hellenist Jews, he retires to Tarsus, while the church greatly flourishes, 29—31. Peter cures Eneas of a palsy, and restores Dorcas to life, 32—43.
X.—The long-promised calling of the Gentiles into the gospel church. Directed by a vision, Cornelius sends to Joppa for Peter, 1—8. Directed by a vision of beasts and a voice from heaven, Peter readily goes, 9—23. Peter and Cornelius relate the substance of their respective visions, 24—33. Peter represents that the distinction of Jews and Gentiles was now abolished by God; and exhibits Christ crucified, and now exalted, as the Messiah foretold by the prophets, and the Saviour of the world, 34—43. The Holy Ghost descends upon Cornelius and his friends, and they are baptized, 44—48.
XI.—Peter accused by his Christian brethren at Jerusalem, 1—5. He vindicates himself, and abundantly satisfies them, 6—18. The gospel published at Antioch in Syria, with great success, 19—21. Barnabas is sent thither; and, finding Paul, goes with him to help forward the work: the converts are there first named Christians, 22—26. Agabus having foretold a famine, the Syrian converts agree to contribute to their poor brethren at Jerusalem, 27—30.
XII.—Herod Agrippa persecutes the Christians, murders the apostle James, and imprisons Peter, 1—4. Peter liberated by an angel, 5—19. Herod struck by an angel, and dies miserably, 20—23. After his death the gospel has great success, and Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch, 24, 25.
XIII.—Paul and Barnabas are solemnly separated to preach the gospel, 1—3. Beginning at Seleucia, they proceed to Cyprus, 4—7. They strike Elymas the sorcerer with blindness, and convert Sergius Paulus, 8—12. Coming from Cyprus, they arrive at Antioch in Pisidia; where Paul gives the Jews a history of their nation, from the deliverance from Egypt to David; represents the crucified Jesus as risen again and exalted to glory, and as the only Saviour of men, 13—41. On the next sabbath, some were converted; but other Jews contradicting and blaspheming, Paul and Barnabas pronounce them obstinate unbelievers, and preach to the Gentiles with great success, 42—49. Departing thence, they testify against their persecutors, and come to Iconium, 50—52.
XIV.—After successfully preaching the gospel at Iconium, persecution makes Paul and Barnabas flee to Lystra, Derbe, etc., 1—7. At Lystra they heal a lame man; upon which the people could scarcely be restrained from worshipping them as gods, 8—18. Quickly after, instigated by the Jews, they stoned Paul till they thought he was dead, 19, 20. They visit the churches lately planted, 21—23. They report what the Lord had done, 24—28.
XV.—A dispute at Antioch about circumcising Gentile converts; Paul and Barnabas sent to Jerusalem to have the matter decided, 1—5. The apostles and elders meet to consider it; after Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and James had spoken, a decision is made against circumcising Gentiles; but requiring them to abstain from things offered to idols, from things strangled, from blood, and from fornication, 6—-29. Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch, where the decree is received with great joy, 30—35. They propose a second journey, but contend about John Mark, and take different routes, 36—41.
XVI.—Paul finds Timothy at Lystra, circumcises him, takes him for an assistant, and visits the churches, delivering the decrees, 1—5. The Holy Ghost prohibits their preaching in Proconsular Asia and Bithynia, but directs them to Macedonia, 6—12. Lydia is converted at Philippi, and entertains them kindly, 13—15. Paul casts out a spirit of divination, for which he and Silas are scourged and imprisoned, 16—24. They sing praises in the prison, an earthquake opens the doors, and the jailer and his family are converted and baptized, 25—33. Paul and Silas oblige the magistrates to liberate and dismiss them honourably as Roman citizens, 34—40.
XVII.—Paul comes to Thessalonica, and preaches with great success; is persecuted by the Jews, 1—9. Flees to Berea, and preaches till the Jews drive him thence, 10—14. Conducted to Athens, he preaches Christ and the resurrection, and disputes with the heathen, 15—31. Converts but few, 32—34.
XVIII.—Paul goes from Athens to Corinth: preaches first to the Jews, 1—6; and afterwards to the Gentiles with great success, and encouraged by a vision, 6—11. Accused before Gallio, who refuses to hear the accusation, 19—17. Returns through Ephesus, Antioch, and other places, 18—23. Apollos, instructed by Aquila and Priscilla, preaches in Ephesus and Achaia, 24—28.
XIX.—Paul returns to Ephesus, and imparts the Holy Ghost to some of John's disciples. 1—7. Preaches three months in the Jews' synagogue; but meeting there with great opposition, he preaches two years in the school of Tyrannus, 8—12. Some Jewish exorcists confounded, and many other practisers of devilish arts converted, 13—20. Paul defers his intended journey, 21, 22. Demetrius and his brethren raise a mob to cry up Diana, but the town clerk disperses it by a sensible remonstrance, 23—41.
XX.—Paul travels through Macedonia, Greece, and Asia, till he comes to Troas, 1—6. Preaches at Troas, administers the Lord's Supper, and raises Eutychus, 7—12. Leaves for Jerusalem, and comes to Miletus, 13—16. Sends for the elders of Ephesus, and charges them to take the care of their church, 17—35. Takes a most solemn and affectionate farewell, 86—38.
XXI.—Paul and his friends, sailing southward from Miletus, touch at Patara, Tyre, Ptolemais, and arrive at Caesarea, 1—8. Lodged in Philip's house, and urged in vain to forbear going up to Jerusalem, 8—14. Coming to Jerusalem, Paul salutes the brethren; reports his success; and at their advice, purifies himself after the custom of the Jews, 15—25. Some Asiatic Jews, seeing him in the temple, incense the multitude to apprehend him, 27—30. Being in danger of his life, he is rescued by the Roman captain, 31—40.
XXII.—By an affectionate address in the Hebrew tongue, Paul procures attention, 1,2. He gives an account of his parentage and early life, 3—5; of his conversion, 6—11; of his being baptized, and further instructed by Ananias, 12—16; of his call from heaven to preach to the Gentiles, 17—1; which greatly enrages the Jews, 22, 23. The chief captain again rescues him, and orders him to be bound and scourged, 24, 25. Paul claims his privileges, is freed from his bonds, and brought to the Jewish council, 26—30.
XXIII.—Paul, before the council, professes his continued integrity; rebukes the high priest, and foretells his ruin, 1—5. He prudently creates a division among his enemies, 6—9; and is carried away by the chief captain, 10. Christ, by a vision, encourages him, and warns him of further trouble at Rome; plot of the Jews to murder him, 11—15. Paul's nephew informs him and the chief captain of the plot, 16—22. Its execution prevented, 23—35.
XXIV.—The high priest and elders, with Tertullus, come to Caesarea, and accuse Paul before Felix, 1—9. Paul clears himself, and defends his behaviour and doctrine, 10—21. Felix defers the decision, and gives Paul more liberty, 22, 23; trembles at his discourse, 24, 25; but he leaves him a prisoner, 26, 27.
XXV.—Paul again accused before Festus, 1—7. He again vindicates himself, and appeals to the Roman emperor, 8—12. Festus relates the case to king Agrippa, who desires to hear Paul, 13—23. Festus presents Paul; acquits him of the charges, and leaves him to answer for himself, 23—27.
XXVI.—After a polite address to Agrippa, 1—3; Paul gives an account of his parentage, Pharisaical profession, belief of the resurrection, inveterate rage against Christ and his followers, 4-11. Relates the manner of his conversion and call to the apostleship; his preaching Christ afterwards, 12—23. Festus pronounces him mad; but Paul maintains the contrary, 24—26. Agrippa almost persuaded to be a Christian; declares Paul innocent, 27—32.
XXVII.—Paul's voyage to Rome as a prisoner: the beginning calm and prosperous, 1—8. Paul warns them of a storm, but in vain, 9—11. They meet it, and are nearly wrecked, 12—20. Paul assures them that their lives would be preserved, 21—26. They all escape to land at Malta, 27—44.
XXVIII.—Paul and his companions hospitably entertained at Malta, 1, 2. Miraculously preserved from a viper, 3—6. Heals Publius' father, and others, 7—10. After three months, they sail by Syracuse, Rhegium, and Puteoli; Paul travels to Rome, 11—16. He sends for some principal Jews, and shows them the injustice of his imprisonment, 17—20. He afterwards preaches the gospel with partial success, 21—29. As a prisoner in his own hired house, he preaches unmolested to all that come to him, 30, 31.
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