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THE MISSION OF PAUL AND SILAS TO MACEDONIA.
IN the fifteenth chapter, we have an account of the proceedings of the first Christian Council, which was assembled to maintain the purity of the gospel against the attempts of some men to corrupt it, and to settle the terms on which Jews and Gentiles should unite in one holy society. It was unanimously determined, that obedience to the law of Moses was not necessary to justification; and that the Gentile converts should not be required to observe its rites, which were no longer obligatory, as the design of their institution had been accomplished by the sufferings and death of the Messiah. In accommodation to the present circumstances of the Church, two exceptions were made, of meats offered to idols, and of blood; partly to guard the believing Gentiles against a relapse into idolatry, but chiefly to concede a little to the prejudices of the Jews, that they might the more readily consent to the exemption of the Gentiles from the general system of ceremonies. We see, in the conduct of the Council, an example worthy to be imitated by the rulers of the Church, who should unite with their zeal for reform, attention to the most prudent measures for the preservation of peace and unity among the disciples of Christ.
This chapter begins with the relation of a fact, concerning the propriety of which doubts may be entertained, after the solemn decision of the Council, and the part which Paul had acted in procuring it. “Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and behold a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: which was well reported of by the brethren which were at Lystra and Iconium: him would Paul have to go forth with him, and took and circumcised him, because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” 221The same Apostle, who had no small dissension and disputation with those who asserted the necessity of circumcision, himself circumcised Timothy. It should be remembered, that as it was the circumcision of the Gentiles, which Paul so strenuously resisted, there is no direct inconsistency in his present conduct, as Timothy was of Jewish descent by his mother. It was the unhappy consequence of her marriage with a Gentile, that her son had not received the seal of God’s covenant in his infancy; and this, as well as many other instances of the unfavourable influence of such ill-assorted connexions upon the religion of a family, should excite the attention of Christians to the exhortation, “not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” But the principal argument in vindication of the conduct of Paul is derived from the different lights in which circumcision might be viewed. The men of the sect of the Pharisees, who troubled the Church of Antioch, affirmed that it was absolutely necessary to salvation. Believing that a sinner is justified at least in part by his works, they considered circumcision and the other observances of the Mosaic law as duties, without which no person could obtain the divine approbation. Had Paul circumcised Timothy upon this principle, he would have been chargeable with renouncing the truth of the gospel. But circumcision might be practised, without any idea of its necessity or merit, out of respect to the Jews, who looked upon the uncircumcised as unclean persons, and avoided intercourse with them. If any man was willing to submit to it, with a view to conciliate their favour, and to gain opportunities of promoting their conversion, there was no law, which forbade him. It was precisely on this ground that Paul proceeded in the case before us. He took Timothy and circumcised him, “because of the Jews which were in those quarters.” As he purposed to employ him in the ministry of the word, he was careful, in the first place, to remove an obstacle, which would have hindered his success among the Jews. In consequence of his circumcision, they would not refuse to associate with Timothy; and having no objection to his person, they would listen, with less prejudice, to his doctrine. When the conduct of the Apostle is examined with candour, we perceive nothing blame-worthy, or inconsistent with the spirit of the decree of the Council, but a prudent accommodation to circumstances, in order to accomplish an important end. This is one of the instances, in which “to the Jews Paul became a Jew, that he might gain the Jews.”222
It would be an abuse of this example, to infer from it, that we may comply with all the prejudices of others, and conform to all their customs, for their good. The limits, within which this liberty is permitted, are very circumscribed; and prudence, conscience, and the word of God, must determine them. In general, it should be regarded as a sacred and inviolable maxim, that we never should “do evil, that good may come.” To adopt this licentious principle, would be to destroy the distinction between virtue and vice, and to pretend to serve God by trampling upon his laws.
Timothy being now associated with Paul and Silas, “they went through the cities, and delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the Apostles and elders, which were at Jerusalem.” The sentence of the Council is called a decree, to signify, that it was not merely an advice, or a simple declaration of their judgment, but an authoritative decision, to which the disciples were bound to submit, if they would remain in the fellowship of the Church. Although there was only one general decree embracing the several subjects of discussion, yet the historian speaks of it in the plural number, because it related to more points than one, declaring that circumcision and obedience to the law of Moses were not necessary to salvation, exempting the Gentiles from any obligation to observe it, and at the same time, prescribing some limitations to the exercise of their liberty. As the decree was delivered to the Churches in other countries as w&ll as to those of Syria and Cilicia, who had sent deputies to Jerusalem, the Council which met there, must be considered as a general one, exercising jurisdiction over the Catholic Church.2222Lect. xvi.
Of the happy consequences which resulted from the publication of the decree, we are informed in the fifth verse. “And so were the Churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.” They were confirmed in the belief of the truth, which the corrupt opinions lately disseminated had a tendency to overthrow. The doctrine of justification was placed upon its proper foundation; and Christians were taught to rest their hope of eternal life upon the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, without the works of the law. The increase of the Church must be ultimately accounted for by that divine power, which accompanied the ministrations of the Apostles; but the decree of the Council was obviously calculated, 223as an external mean, to promote it. Circumcision, and the long train of rites enjoined by the law of Moses, were impediments tc the conversion of the Gentiles, which it removed. Without subjecting themselves to that burdensome ceremonial, they were required only to embrace the gracious doctrines, and to submit to the gentle law, of Jesus Christ. The middle wall of partition was broken down; and they were admitted, upon the same terms with the Jews, to the favour of God and the privileges of the new dispensation. It is thus that God brings good out of evil. Although heresies and dissensions are immediately prejudicial to the Church, by disquieting the minds of men, and producing an alienation of affection, which is the usual effect of a difference of sentiment, yet they ultimately contribute to its purification and establishment. When controversies about doctrines arise, individuals may be seduced into error and apostacy by the plausible reasonings of false teachers; but in consequence of the closer attention which is given to the subject of discussion, it comes to be better understood than before, is expressed with greater accuracy of language, and is supported by arguments more judiciously selected, and more skilfully arranged. Those who are conversant with ecclesiastical history, will recollect more than one instance in proof of this observation. If it is of importance to know the will of our Maker, who certainly has not obtruded upon us useless speculations, the discussion which stimulates our inquiries, and increases our caution, which leads us to examine the evidence of doctrines with care, and to adopt them only in consequence of conviction, is an eventual benefit; and we should admire the wisdom of God, who renders the opposition of ignorance and prejudice subservient to the display and confirmation of the truth.
In the verses which are next in order, there is a concise account of the progress of Paul and Silas. “Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia, and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia, came down to Troas.” Asia does not signify, in this passage, the whole of Asia Minor, which comprehended Galatia, and Bithynia, and many other provinces; but that part of it which was distinguished by the name of proconsular Asia. In this region they were forbidden to preach by the Holy Ghost, who also hindered them from going into Bithynia. The reasons of these restrictions we cannot as 224sign, nor are we informed of the manner in which they were communicated; but it left no doubt in the minds of Paul and Silas with respect to their duty. The Apostolic age was an age of miracles. God interposed by a series of supernatural operations, to introduce and establish the new dispensation. Although, however, his interference in succeeding ages, has not been so manifest, yet we know, that the course which the gospel has followed, coming to one nation, and departing from another, has been regulated by his Providence. The possession of the advantages of revelation, and the want of them, do not fall out by chance, nor proceed from the arbitrary determinations of men. The dispensation of the gospel affords a signal display of the divine sovereignty. By the command of Jesus Christ, it is to be preached to “every creature;” but he disposes the order, and appoints the seasons, of its propagation. To some nations, it has not yet been published; others, by whom it was once enjoyed, have lost it; and in our own days, we have seen it communicated to tribes, who had for many ages been involved in the thick darkness of ignorance and idolatry. Before the end of the world, the doctrine of salvation shall illuminate every region of the earth; the rays of the Sun of Righteousness shall be as widely diffused as those of the natural sun. In the mean time, it is obvious, that in granting the gospel to one nation, and withholding it from. another, God is not chargeable with partiality and injustice. The objections which have been, repeatedly urged upon this subject, and the difficulty which some have experienced in finding a satisfactory answer to them, proceed from inattention to these two facts; that man is a guilty creature, whom his Maker might have justly left to perish in his sins, and that the gospel is a pure effect of his grace. Surely, he is at liberty to select the objects of his favour; and he does no injury to one person who deserves nothing, when he bestows an unmerited blessing upon another. “Even so, Father, for it seemed good in thy sight.”
It is proper to remark, that although the Holy Ghost now forbade Paul and Silas to preach the word in Asia and Bithynia, it was not his intention to exclude them for ever from the enjoyment of the gospel. It was afterwards published in those countries with success; and in Nice, the capital of Bithynia, a general Council was assembled, in the reign of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, to oppose the progress of the Arian heresy. But the time of 225visitation was not yet come. The Holy Ghost had other purposes to accomplish; and he hastened Paul and Silas to the place.
While they were in Troas, “a vision appeared to Paul in the night: There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” Among the various methods, by which God, in ancient times, revealed his will to the Prophets, one was by visions, which were representations of certain objects and transactions to the senses of a person when awake. In sleep, they were instructed by dreams, which among the heathens also, were considered as a medium of communication with the Gods. “If there be a Prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.” In the vision of Paul, “there stood a man of Macedonia,” or the appearance of a man, whose country was known by his dress, as well as by his words; for “he prayed Paul, saying, Come over to Macedonia, and help us.” The request was concise, but pressing. It represented the inhabitants of Macedonia as in circumstances of want or danger, from which they were unable to extricate themselves, and the gospel which Paul preached as the only mean of relief. Some of the heathen nations were celebrated for their skill in civil and military affairs, and had cultivated with great success, the fine arts of painting, poetry, music, architecture, and statuary.
These attainments, however, related merely to the accommodation and embellishment of this transitory life. They had applied, likewise, to the study of philosophy, and had displayed great ingenuity and subtilty in the various branches of geometry, logic, and ethics. But their researches into the nature of God, the sources and extent of virtue, and final destination of man, being conducted by the uncertain light of reason, had served only to bewilder them. “Professing themselves to be wise they became fools.” Of the true method of propitiating the Deity they were utterly ignorant; and the plans which fancy had suggested, had multiplied crimes, and augmented the load of guilt, with which their consciences were already oppressed. The lapse of ages beheld them departing farther and farther from the truth. The corruption of morals kept pace with their errors in speculation. Their philosophers could give them no information respecting the true religion, which was unknown to themselves. They were idle theorists, and often impudent profligates, who extolled virtue, and practised the most 226odious vices.2323Cic. Tuscul. Disput. Lib. ii. 4. The spiritual condition of the Gentiles was deplorable, and seemed to be hopeless. No human means could retrieve it; reason, which, in its best state, is an insufficient guide, was overwhelmed by an accumulated mass of superstition and licentiousness. It was the gospel only which could help them; that blessed revelation, which has dispelled the darkness of the human mind, pointed out an atonement in which the guilty may confide, disclosed the prospects of futurity, and brought down to earth those heavenly influences, by which our nature is restored to its original purity, and fitted to attain its supreme good in the enjoyment of its Creator.
Paul having inferred from the vision, that he was called to preach the gospel in Macedonia, set out, without delay, for that country, and, after a prosperous voyage, arrived at Philippi. “And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. Therefore, loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; and from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia,” or the first city, to which a person came, who wars travelling from Neapolis; “and a colony,” being inhabited by Roman settlers, and governed by the Roman laws. After an interval of some days, Paul and his companions went “on the Sabbath out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made.” It is probable that this place of prayer was one of those oratories, which the Jews erected for the purposes of devotion; for we can hardly think, that prayer was wont to be made on the naked bank of the river, where the persons assembled would have been liable to be disturbed and insulted. These oratories were different from synagogues. The latter were houses, constructed like our Churches, for the reception of a congregation, in which all those parts of divine worship that were not peculiar to the temple; were performed; whereas the former were open above, commonly shaded with trees, and intended solely for prayer and meditation. They were usually built in retired places, on mountains, on the banks of rivers, and on the shore of the sea. It has been supposed, that it was to one of those sacred places to which our Saviour repaired, when “he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued 227all night in prayer to God,” or, as the passage might be rendered, “spent the night in an oratory.”2424Mede’s discourse on Josh. xxiv. 26.
Paul addressed “the women, which resorted thither,” declaring to them first the doctrine of salvation. Had any men been present, the historian, we presume, would have mentioned them, and the Apostle would not have confined his discourse to the women. There were undoubtedly men in Philippi, who professed the Jewish religion; but it has been remarked, to the honour of the female sex, that they often excel us in the punctuality with which they perform the duties of religious worship, and in the ardour of their devotion, in consequence, perhaps, of their being less distracted by the business and commerce of the world, or of the greater warmth of their affections. Women ministered to our Saviour during his humiliation upon earth; women first visited his sepulchre in the morning of his resurrection; women performed good offices to the, Apostles, and assisted them in their labours; and a woman was the first in Philippi who embraced the Christian faith.
“And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” The opening of the heart is expressive of that operation of divine grace upon the soul of Lydia, which disposed her to give serious attention to the doctrine which Paul preached. The human heart is naturally shut against the truth by spiritual blindness, and the influence of sinful affections. The unregenerated man is incapable of perceiving its excellence, and dislikes it, because it aims at humbling his pride, and detaching him from the unhallowed objects of his love. External means are not sufficient to remove those obstacles to a cordial reception of the gospel. You may describe colours, in appropriate terms, and with glowing eloquence, to a blind man; but no distinct idea of them will be excited in his mind, while he is without the organ, by which only they are perceived. In what manner God acts upon the soul when he renews it, it is impossible to explain. The Scriptures inform us, that “he opens our eyes, enlightens our understandings, changes our hearts, makes us willing, and fulfils in us all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.” With these and similar declarations we should be satisfied. In the economy 228of grace and of nature, we must be content with the knowledge of facts. There is a veil upon the mode of the divine operations, which presumption may attempt to remove, while humble piety will be employed in observing and admiring the effects. Happy is he who can say with the man, whom our Saviour cured, “One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.” There is not a principle of our religion more clearly taught in the Scriptures, and which should be more steadfastly maintained, than that the conversion of a sinner is the effect of supernatural influence. It is a principle which is in unison with all the other parts of the system, and contributes, in concert with them, to promote its ultimate design, the glory of almighty and sovereign grace. To God is reserved the exclusive honour of our salvation; and the proper sentiments of man are humility and gratitude. “The Lord opened the heart of Lydia, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”
The sincerity of her faith was demonstrated by her immediate submission to the institutions of Christ, and by her kindness to Paul and his brethren. Nature teaches us to love our benefactors, and the grace of God will inspire a particular affection to those who have been the instruments of our spiritual good. Indifference to the persons and interests of the ministers of religion proceeds from indifference to religion itself, and may be justly considered as a proof, that those, in whom this temper prevails, have not experienced the peace and comfort, which the instructions and exhortations of the faithful servants of Jesus Christ communicate to believers. “And when she was baptized and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.”
The gospel which was now preached for the first time in Philippi, was confirmed by a display of that miraculous power, which Jesus Christ had conferred upon the Apostles. “And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel, possessed with a spirit of divination, met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying.” Those who can consult the original, will find, that the spirit, who possessed this young woman, was the same, who was supposed to inspire the priestess of Apollo at Delphi, and to deliver oracles in the name of that pretended Deity. That this was a real possession might be proved by all the arguments, which apply to 229the cases of the same kind, that occur in the Gospels. The opinion, that the Evangelists, when relating possessions, do not express their own conviction, but accommodate their language to the vulgar belief of their age, is inconsistent with their acknowledged integrity and veracity, represents them as ascribing miracles to our Saviour which he did not perform, and is contradicted by a variety of circumstances, which clearly show the unhappy persons to have been under demoniacal influence. By representing this spirit as the same individual, or of the same character, with the spirit who actuated the Delphian priestess, Luke seems to favour the idea, that impure spirits were concerned in the heathen oracles, and that the prophets of paganism spoke by their inspiration. This opinion was commonly held by the Fathers; but by the more sceptical moderns, those prophets are generally believed to have been impostors, and the oracles to have been contrivances of the priests to impose upon the credulity of mankind. The truth, perhaps, lies between these extremes; and while much may be ascribed to the artifice of men, something should be allotted to the interference of the demons of darkness. Satan was the God of this world; he reigned among the Gentiles, during the ages of idolatry, without. a rival; and he may have been permitted to exercise a power over his deluded votaries, which ceased when Christianity was fully introduced. “I beheld Satan, as lightning, fall from heaven.” Our Lord refers to the overthrow of heathenism, which, in its frame and constitution, in its impious dogmas, its idolatry, its profane rites, and its oracles, as well as in the crimes which it tolerated and encouraged; was the work of the grand adversary of God and man.
The demon who resided in this woman, is called “a spirit of divination,” agreeably to the import, although not to the literal sense, of the original term. To divine, is to disclose secrets, and foretel future events. It is easy to conceive Satan, if his preternatural agency upon the mind be admitted, to have enabled the subjects of his inspiration to reveal secrets, because deeds committed in darkness, and in the closest retirement, are open to the inspection of a spirit. He could farther have made them acquainted with distant transactions, the immediate knowledge of which it was impossible to have obtained by natural means. He might have given them some notices of futurity, by informing them of such things as he intended to do, or as were already in a certain train to be accomplished He undoubtedly can conjecture with much greater sagacity 230than we, what will be the result in a variety of cases, from the superior powers of his mind, his longer and more extensive experience, and is more perfect acquaintance with human nature in general, and the dispositions and circumstances of individuals. In every other respect, futurity is hidden from him as well as from us, by an impenetrable veil. A real prophecy, or the. prediction of an event, which shall be produced by causes not yet in existence, or depends upon the free agency of men, we may safely pronounce him to be as incapable of delivering, as the most short-sighted of mortals. Prophecy would not constitute a proof of a divine revelation, or of a divine mission, unless it were a supernatural gift. It is the prerogative of God “to declare the end from the beginning.” Yet with such scanty knowledge, Satan aped the oracles of Jehovah. As he had his temples, and altars, and priests, so he had likewise his prophets.
The possessed woman “brought her masters much gain by soothsaying,” or prophesying. She acted the same part, we may presume, with our own fortune tellers, and amused the credulous multitude with liberal promises of future felicity. If her predictions happened to be fulfilled in one or two instances, her credit would be maintained, notwithstanding their failure in many. The eager desire of mankind to anticipate their future fortunes, prepares them to listen, with fond credulity, to the pretensions of impostors, and long maintains the delusion, in spite of the plainest admonitions of reason and experience. It is with inexpressible mortification, that they, at last, see the book of fate snatched from them, at the moment when they expected to break its seals, and peruse its mysterious contents.
The conduct of the damsel in reference to Paul and his brethren, is not so easily explained. “The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation.” This account of Paul and Silas was certainly just They were indeed the servants of God, who had come to Macedonia to declare to the inhabitants of that country the way of salvation from sin and death. But why did the unclean spirit bear so honourable a testimony to men, in whose success his destruction was involved? Shall we say, that he was compelled by the superior power of Jesus Christ, to publish, to his own confusion, what he would have willingly suppressed? or were the words spoken in derision of their character and pretensions? 231Was it the design of the cunning spirit to conciliate their favour by flattering compliments? or did he hope by the promptitude, with which he commended them, to make the Philippians believe, that he and they were acting in concert?
Whatever was the motive of this unexpected eulogium, “Paul was grieved.” Religion stands in no need of commendation from the father of lies. He therefore “turned and said to the spirit, I command thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, to come out of her.” In these words there was a virtue, which the demon, with all his pride and malignity, was unable to resist. “And he came out the same hour.” The name of Jesus, whose voice made the spirits of darkness tremble, when he sojourned on the earth, was still terrible to them. The authority, which accompanied it, drove them from their strongholds, and wrested from their hands the unhappy captives, whose minds and bodies they had cruelly abused. This was a triumph gained over Satan in his own territories, and in the presence of his devoted subjects. By the dispossession of the demon, the superiority of Jesus whom Paul preached, was demonstrated. The tendency of the miracle was to persuade the Philippians to abandon their idols, of whose disgrace and defeat they had been witnesses; and we know, that to some of them, this evidence of the truth of Christianity was not presented in vain. Lydia was not the only convert in the city. There were some brethren, as we learn from the last verse of the chapter; and a Church was formed in Philippi, to which Paul afterwards addressed one of his Epistles. Of the tumult which ensued, and the sufferings which Paul and Silas endured, an account will be given in the next Lecture.
The passage which has now been explained, suggests the following remarks.
First, The sovereignty of God, displayed in sending the gospel to one nation in preference to another, lays those to whom it is granted, under a strong obligation to thankfulness. The value of the gift is enhanced by the discrimination which is exercised in conferring it. I would not be understood to insinuate, that common blessings should be lightly esteemed. Selfishness may wish to monopolize the goodness of heaven; but a generous heart, feels its own happiness augmented by the happiness of others. This, at least, all must acknowledge, that our individual share of enjoyment is not impaired by the admission of our brethren to partake 232of the beneficence of our Creator. The light of the sun gives equal pleasure to the eye which beholds it, as if it were the only eye in the universe; the atmosphere furnishes the constant means of sustaining our life, although it is breathed by millions of our fellow-creatures. But when it pleases God, instead of extending his favour to all, to confine it to a few select objects, to bestow upon a part of his offspring the portion which all the members of the family equally need, what gratitude should they feel, who are distinguished from their brethren! We see how the pious Israelites were affected by the divine favour to their nation; and let us, in similar circumstances, beware of insensibility, the sure sign of a hard and reprobate heart. “He showeth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments they have not known them. Praise ye the Lord.” Many of the human race are perishing for lack of knowledge, while to you, without any merit on your part, the instructions and consolations of religion are abundantly afforded. This is not an accidental distinction, but the result of the will of God; it is not a trifling benefit, but a blessing of greater magnitude than all the advantages of soil and climate, of civilization and good government; a blessing, of which the consequences will extend into eternity. This blessing God has granted to you, and withheld from others. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.”
Secondly, The consideration of divine grace as the sole cause of the success of the gospel, is not a speculative point, but a principle calculated to produce the best effects upon the heart. It has a direct tendency to encourage the spirit of devotion. It makes us look up to God as the source of all good, depend upon him for the salvation of our souls, and hope in his favour and assistance for all our advances in goodness and happiness. This is certainly the most becoming and pious state of mind; and that doctrine may be presumed to be from God, which promotes it. It gives no countenance to pride and self-conceit, which are fostered by the opinion, that the success of the gospel depends upon the sincerity and other good dispositions of the hearers. To teach sinful men, that their own will must finally decide, whether the grace of God shall be received or rejected, turns their attention to themselves, and cherishes a sentiment of self-estimation and self-confidence, which is inconsistent 233with the duty of “I glorying only in the Lord.” The Scriptural doctrine of grace as the efficient cause of conversion, takes away from every man every pretext for alienating himself from his Maker, who should be the constant and supreme object of his love, and trust, and gratitude. It annihilates his boasted dignity and excellence, and leaves nothing to be seen and admired but the divine goodness. This is true religion, for, in harmony with all the works of God, it terminates in the manifestation of his glory.
Thirdly, When the gospel comes to any nation, or to any individual, in the power and demonstration of the Holy Ghost, it destroys the works of the devil. We know no instance of possession in the present times; but the apostate spirit “still works in the children of disobedience.” He has established his dominion in their hearts; and he maintains it by ignorance, unbelief, the love of the world, and the complicated system of corrupt affections. By the word of God, his authority is subverted, and his strongholds are overthrown. He is expelled from the souls, as, in former times, he was driven from the bodies, of men. The spiritual darkness, amidst which he reigned, vanishes when the light of truth enters the mind; the lofty imaginations, the proud self-sufficient thoughts, which he encouraged as the bulwarks of his kingdom, are laid low in the dust; the fascinating influence of sin is dissolved; and the soul now possessed of other views and principles of conduct, gladly returns to the service of its rightful sovereign. Although we have now no opportunity to observe the miraculous effects of our Saviour’s name upon demons, yet his power in destroying their spiritual domination, strengthened as it is by the consent of their subjects, is daily exerted. Every convert feels it; every believer can bear testimony to it from his own success in resisting temptation. It is visible in the change which it produces upon those who are brought to the knowledge of the truth: for when he who was the slave of vice becomes the servant of God; when the pursuits of sensuality are abandoned for the duties of piety and holiness, it is manifest, that the person, who is thus transformed, has been delivered out of the snare of the devil.234
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