« Prev Lecture XXII. Paul in Ephesus. Next »

LECTURE XXII.

PAUL IN EPHESUS.

Chap. xix. 1-20.

THE mention of Apollos in the first verse, leads us back to the last part of the preceding chapter, where that eminent minister of the gospel is first introduced to our notice. He was a Jew, born in Alexandria, well acquainted with the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and was possessed of a great share of eloquence. At the time of his appearance in Ephesus, he was imperfectly instructed in the religion of Christ, for he knew only the baptism of John. But, Aquila, and Priscilla who had removed from Corinth to that city, having expounded to him the way of God more perfectly, when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, he was sent to that country with recommendatory letters; and he seems to have been allowed to preach there in the assemblies of the Christians, as well as in those of the Jews. No argument can be fairly drawn from this case, for the right of every person, who is qualified, to commence a preacher of the gospel, although it has been sometimes represented as decisive of the question. The practice of the Jewish synagogue, in which private persons were permitted to explain the Scriptures, and to exhort the congregation, is not a precedent for the Christian Church; and it was only in the synagogue that Apollos preached, during his residence in Ephesus. The sequel of his history is so concise that no considerate person would choose to found upon it the determination of any point in debate. It is certain, that by one Church which was acquainted with his character and qualifications, he was recommended to another, and that in consequence of that recommendation he discharged the duties of a public teacher in the latter. While we perceive some traces of regular procedure in this business, the particular steps are obviously omitted. As those parts of Scripture which are obscure, or defective, should 291be interpreted by such as are perspicuous and full, we may safely suppose, that Apollos was admitted to the ministerial office, in the ordinary way, by the call of the Church, and the imposition of hands.

“While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul, having passed through the upper coasts, came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, he said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” John baptized his disciples into the faith of the Messiah, as soon to be manifested to Israel. The men whom Paul found at Ephesus, seem to have been disciples of John, who, having acquired some knowledge of Jesus, and of the evidences of his divine mission, believed in him as the Messiah whose approach their Master had proclaimed. But, from circumstances of which we are not informed, the distance, perhaps, at which they lived from Judea, or the want of an opportunity to hear the Apostles or to converse with any of the Christians, they entertained a very imperfect idea of the nature and privileges of the new dispensation; for when Paul asked them, whether they had received the Holy Ghost, they answered, “We have not so much as heard, whether there be any Holy Ghost.” In the New Testament, this name sometimes signifies the operations of the Spirit; and in several passages, not his sanctifying, but his miraculous influences. In the latter sense it must, at present, be understood; for Paul did not inquire whether those disciples had been regenerated, but whether the extraordinary gifts, which where then common, had been communicated to them. When they did receive the Holy Ghost by the imposition of hands, we read, that “they spake with tongues, and prophecied.”

Unless we consider the question of Paul as referring to the operations of the Holy Ghost, the answer will import, that those men, although disciples of John, and believers in Christ, did not know whether there was such a person as the Spirit. This, however, is an incredible degree of ignorance in Jews, who had often read, in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, of the Spirit of the Lord, by whom the Prophets were inspired. But, according to the explanation we have given of the name, not to know whether there was a Holy Ghost, signifies that they were not apprized of the miraculous dispensation, which had commenced on the day of Pentecost. They had not heard, that the Holy Ghost was restored to Israel, who according to the saying of the Rabbis, departed from it, after the 292death of Zechariah and Malachi. In like manner, it is said, on a certain occasion, of Samuel, who had been trained up in the fear of God from his infancy, and was then ministering in the tabernacle, that “he did not yet know the Lord;” that is, as we learn from the words which immediately follow, he had not yet been favoured with any vision, or revelation. John, when relating an address of our Saviour to the Jews in the temple, remarks, that “the Holy Ghost was not yet given,” or, according to the original, that “the Holy Ghost was not yet,” because Jesus was not yet glorified; undoubtedly meaning, not that the divine Spirit did not then exist; for he had spoken many ages before by the Prophets, but that he was not then poured out upon the disciples in those spiritual gifts, which were so abundantly communicated, after the exaltation of Christ. The words of the Evangelist are analogous to those of the disciples in Ephesus, and illustrate their meaning. They had not heard of the dispensation of the Spirit. Still it is surprising, that a dispensation so extraordinary, which must have given rise to much conversation, and the effects of which were felt in all the Churches, should not have been known to persons, whose faith in Jesus Christ is an evidence, that they had inquired into his character and history. Paul was surprised at their answer, and said to them, “Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.” They had been baptized by John himself, or by his disciples, and had received no other baptism. Although they believed in Christ, therefore, they were not properly members of the visible Church, into which converts were received by that sacred rite.

From their answer, the Apostle took occasion to point out the nature and design of the baptism of John. “Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance.” It is called the baptism of repentance, because he required from those whom he admitted to it, the confession and renunciation of their sins, and such a change of views and dispositions, as was necessary to prepare them for becoming disciples of the Messiah. For the Baptist, faithful to his commission, used no art to draw the attention of the people to himself, but directed their expectations to Him, who was soon to appear to claim their homage, and to save them from their sins. “He said unto the people that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” From all quarters, the people flocked to the ministry of John, as no person 293had for a long time appeared among them, invested with the prophetical character. He was revered for the authority with which he taught, and for the austerity of his manners; and so high did the public admiration rise, that many began to think that he was the Messiah himself. “But he confessed and denied not, but confessed, I am not the Christ.” With disinterested zeal he resigned all his honours to his Master.

The following words have been the subject of much controversy. “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Some maintain that they are the words of Paul, relating the success of the ministry of John, and import, that many were persuaded to receive baptism from him, not as a rite of initiation into his service, but as a token of their faith in the Messiah, whose superior dignity and near approach he had foretold. It will be acknowledged, I presume, that this is not the sense of the words, which first presents itself to the reader, and it has not, therefore the recommendation of being obvious and natural. Besides, John did not baptize his disciples “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” unless this expression be used in some forced and unusual meaning. He merely commanded them to believe in the Messiah, without pointing him out by person, or by name. Others contend, that these are the words of Luke, who records the result of the conversation between Paul and those disciples of the Baptist. As soon as the Apostle had convinced them, that the great design of the ministry of John, was to prepare men for becoming disciples of Christ, not to form a sect or party which should be called by his own name, they submitted to baptism, as a public testimony of their faith in our Saviour, and of their dedication to his service. It is objected to this view of the passage, that it supposes the baptism of John and that of Christ to have been different; and that it furnishes an example in justification of those who assert, that, in certain cases, baptism should be repeated. But, there seems to be no necessity for so identifying the baptism of John and that of Christ, that both could not be lawfully administered to the same individual. John baptized his disciples into the faith of the Messiah as to come; we are baptized into the faith of the Messiah as actually come. The baptism of John was evidently instituted to serve a temporary purpose, in common with all the other parts of his ministry; the baptism of Christ is to continue to the end of the world. The one did not properly belong to the Christian economy, but was preparatory to it; 294the other is an ordinance given by our Saviour to his Church to supply the place of circumcision. Christian baptism is administered in the name of the persons of the Trinity; whereas we have no evidence that they were explicitly recognized in the baptism of John. From these considerations, it appears, that the two ordinances differ so much in their form, their design, and their relation to the present dispensation, that they may be considered as perfectly distinct; and, consequently, that a person who had been baptized by John, might have been baptized again by an Apostle. Hence, it is plain, that the case before us affords no precedent for the repetition of Christian baptism. In ancient times, it was customary, in some places, to rebaptize heretics, who returned to the bosom of the Catholic Church; and the same practice is retained by certain sects, in the case of those who accede to their communion, because they account the baptism, which was administered to them in their infancy, to have been unscriptural and void. But, the instance now under consideration gives no countenance to this procedure, because the baptism of the disciples in Ephesus was not a repetition of the same rite, in consequence of an irregularity in the first application of it, but an ordinance, which had not formerly been dispensed to them. They now, for the first time, received the baptism of Christ.

It is unhappy, when we bring to the study of the Scripture, our preconceived notions, our jealousy for favourite opinions, our dread of giving advantage to an antagonist, our anxious care to guard against the dangers, real or imaginary, which threaten our system. In this state of mind, it is impossible that we should be candid and impartial, in the interpretation of it. We must feel a strong inclination to make it express our sentiments, and when it refuses its evidence, to torture it to confess. This is the true source of the forced and unnatural expositions of Scripture, which are too frequent in the writings of all parties. Let the word of God explain its own meaning without any restraint; and if it should not, on every occasion, speak in conformity to our wishes, it will be always consistent with itself.

As soon as the disciples were baptized, “Paul laid his hands upon them, and the Holy Ghost came upon them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied.” Imposition of hands was a rite practised in the primitive times, for various purposes, and particularly for the communication of supernatural gifts, which were imparted 295to qualify the persons for preaching the gospel, or promoting, in a more private manner, the edification of the Church, and to demonstrate to Jews and Gentiles the divine origin of the Christian religion. Those disciples were immediately inspired with the knowledge of foreign languages, and the spirit of prophecy. And thus a proof was given of the great difference between the baptism of John, and that of our Saviour. “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.”

Let us proceed to consider the labours of Paul in Ephesus, and the miracles, by which his doctrine was confirmed. Conformably to his usual practice, “he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.” He explained the nature of the dispensation of grace, and exerted his holy eloquence to prevail upon the Jews to embrace the gospel as the end and completion of the law. In our times, when the doctrine of the cross is recognised by the Christian world as the foundation of their hopes, to avow our belief of it is an easy matter; and we shall with little difficulty persuade others to concur with us. But, in the Apostolic age, no man could have said, without heroic courage, without having his mind elevated by the love of truth, above the consideration of honour and personal safety, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” It required boldness to maintain principles, which appeared foolish to the wise men of the world, and drew upon their friends ridicule and persecution. In the synagogue, Paul was surrounded with men, avowedly hostile to the cause which he defended, and, from the violence of their zeal, capable of the greatest excesses. Yet, he dared to proclaim, in their presence, the crucified Jesus to be the Messiah. He “disputed” in the synagogue, replying to the objections of the Jews, and supporting his doctrine by arguments from Scripture. Disputation, however unpleasant, is unavoidable, when we meet with captious and unreasonable opponents. If it often irritates, it sometimes convinces; and, whatever may be its effects upon individuals, it is necessary, for the honour of the truth, that the mistakes, misrepresentations, and sophisms of adversaries, should be detected and exposed.

But, although Paul, we may believe, refuted, in the most triumphant manner, the arguments of the Jews, there were some too proud and obstinate to yield. “Divers were hardened,” that is, their tempers were ruffled, and, agreeably to the frequent result of 296disputes they were more than ever confirmed in their opinions; “divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude.” Not content with rejecting his doctrine, they loaded it with opprobrious names, under the influence of passion, or with a view to excite in the minds of the other Jews, the same determined opposition to it. Finding that it would be neither expedient nor safe to continue in the synagogue, the Apostle withdrew with the disciples to the school of Tyrannus, in which he disputed daily for the instruction of those who frequented it. “And this continued for the space of two years; so that all they that dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” Asia signifies, in this place, proconsular Asia, which was only a part of what is called Asia Minor. Concerning such universal terms as are used in this passage, we remark, that they are to be understood in a qualified sense, and express not every individual, but a great number. Many of the inhabitants of Asia heard the word during Paul’s residence in Ephesus. The fame of his miracles must have spread far and wide, and have excited the public curiosity to see the extraordinary man by whom they were performed, and to hear an account of that religion which they were intended to attest. The city itself was populous, and was the resort of strangers, who flocked to it from all quarters, to worship Diana in her magnificent temple to learn the art of Magic, which was studied there with uncommon ardour, and to pursue the various designs which attract persons to the metropolis of a province.

In this seat of idolatry and magic, the gospel stood in need of the powerful support, afforded by the miracles which God enabled his servant to perform. “And God wrought special miracles by the hand of Paul: so that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.” No person was bound to believe the gospel, till satisfactory evidence of its truth and authority had been produced. The testimony of the apostles themselves was not sufficient to prove that they were messengers from God, because they might be misled by enthusiasm, or might have an intention to deceive, and the same character had been assumed and maintained, with the utmost confidence, by many impostors. The power of working miracles was conferred upon them, to attest their commission, and showed that God was with them, by a proof perfectly decisive, and so perspicuous, that the dull and illiterate 297might understand it, and feel its force. When we say, that the power of working miracles was conferred upon the Apostles, we do not mean that the laws of nature were so subjected to their will, that they could suspend or change them at their pleasure; but that a promise was made to them, that when they should give the sign by words, or actions, God himself would produce the effect. The miracles were wrought by his arm; and the province of the Apostles was to predict the event, or to announce it immediately before it took place. The Spirit who was always present with them, suggested the proper occasions for giving the sign, so that the power of God was not at their command, but merely cooperated with them to carry on the design in which they were engaged.

In the present case, there was something unusual, as Luke intimates, by saying that God wrought “special” miracles. The way in which the Apostles commonly performed such miracles as are here recorded, was, either commanding, in the name of Jesus Christ, the disease to depart, or by laying their hands upon the patient. But, now handkerchiefs and aprons, which had been applied to the body of Paul, were carried to the sick, who, upon touching them, or applying them to their own bodies, were instantly cured. Virtue proceeded from him in as wonderful a manner as it had proceeded from our Saviour himself, when a woman having touched the hem of his garment, immediately felt herself made whole. This extraordinary scene might have led the spectators to form too exalted an idea of Paul. Dispensing to all who not only approached him, but even at a distance implored, or stood in need of his assistance, the inestimable blessing of health, he seemed to be rather a God than a man; and we should not have been surprised, if the astonished heathens, supposing him to be one of their Deities, who had descended to the earth, had attempted to pay divine honours to him. But, this misconception was prevented by his explicit and uniform declaration, that he was only a minister of God; and by the performance of his miracles in the name of Jesus. On every occasion of this nature, the language of all the Apostles was the same with that of Peter and John. “Look not on us as though by our own power and holiness we had done these things. It is the power of Jesus of Nazareth which has effected them.”

The working of miracles by handkerchiefs and aprons, taken from the body of Paul, has been supposed, by superstitious men, to 298favour their notions, with respect to the virtue of relics. By these are meant the remains of the departed saints, their garments, their bones, and their blood, which have been collected with credulous and undistinguishing avidity. They have been deposited in Churches; and preserved with religious care; pilgrimages have been undertaken to visit them, and the most solemn acts of devotion have been performed in their presence; and a power has been ascribed to them of curing the blind, the deaf, and the lame, of dispossessing demons, and in a word, of performing all the wonders, which are related of Christ and his Apostles. To this extravagance of folly, has grown up, under the fostering care of priests and monks, the veneration which the ancient Christians piously expressed for the bodies of the martyrs. Much of the religion of the Church of Rome consists in respect for relics. But, to this superstition the passage before us gives no countenance. Not to mention, that the most of those relics are supposititious, the things which are imposed upon the unsuspecting multitude as the remains of holy men, having perhaps belonged to a malefactor, a prostitute, or a heathen, it is evident that an extraordinary dispensation does not establish a precedent, which will apply to ordinary cases. All the saints and martyrs did not possess the power of performing miracles, while they were alive, and still less can they be conceived to work them, when lying in their graves. Miracles have long since ceased. The story of their continuance is believed by the ignorant alone, and is supported by a train of scandalous impositions. They are not now necessary, because the truth of Christianity has been fully demonstrated; and we are certain that God will not deviate from the established order of nature, to patronise idolatry, and encourage the most wretched superstition, which ever disgraced the understanding and corrupted the heart.

The success of Paul, in curing all diseases, whether of the body or of the mind, by the name of Jesus, suggested to some Jews, who were pretenders to preternatural powers, the idea of making an experiment of its efficacy. “Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits, the name of the Lord Jesus, saying: We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.” I had occasion, when explaining the history of Simon, to make a few remarks upon magic. The object of that science of declusion and imposture, was to cultivate an intercourse with invisible beings, by whose assistance the person 299should be enabled to cure diseases, and perform other wonderful works. It appears, from the accounts of ancient writers, that in their incantations, the heathens made use of some of the names and titles of the true God, which they had learned from the Jews; for they believed, and some Christians adopted the notion, that there was attached to certain words, a mysterious and sovereign virtue. They were careful, at the same time, to ascertain the names of the particular demons, whose aid they were desirous to obtain; and they employed as charms, a variety of uncouth and barbarous terms.3737Orig. contra Cels. lib. i. 17-20. With these they connected mystical rites, upon the exact observance of which, the success of their invocations was supposed to depend.

This pretended science, which the wiser and better part of the heathens condemned, had, at this time or perhaps earlier, gained credit among the Jews, by some of whom it was studied and practised. This may be collected from the story now under consideration, and is fully proved by the testimony of Josephus, who relates some of the methods which they used in performing cures, and informs us, that they had books teaching the modes of exorcism and incantation, which they asserted to have been composed by Solomon.3838Antiq. Lib. viii. cap. 2. With the name of that wise and illustrious monarch, they attempted to sanctify a profane science, which was expressly forbidden by their law; and to conceal the impure source from which they had derived it, the superstitious and idolatrous nations around them.

The actors in the present scene, were “vagabond Jews,” or persons who strolled from place to place, like the jugglers and fortunetellers of other nations, to practise their arts, wherever they could find people sufficiently credulous. They are called exorcists, because they adjured evil spirits, or solemnly commanded them, in the name of God, to leave the bodies of the possessed, accompanying the adjuration with magical rites. Their success had hitherto been only apparent through a collusion between them and the other party, or had consisted in certain effects produced upon the imagination of the patient. But, now observing that real dispossessions were effected by the name of Jesus, and that no case was so obstinate as to resist its influence, they were tempted to make trial of its power in preference to the forms of exorcism, which they 300had been accustomed to use. “We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.”

Among the Jewish exorcists, “There were seven sons of one Sceva a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.” But these audacious imposters speedily found, that although there was a mighty efficacy in the name of Jesus, it did not proceed, as they probably imagined, from the sound of the word, but from his divine power, which he could exert or restrain, at his pleasure. He had lent it to Paul, to attest his commission, and to promote the interests of the religion which he published; but he would not lend it, to give countenance to magic. There was no charm in the name itself to drive the demon from his hold; and, accordingly, he treated this impotent attempt to dispossess him, with scorn. “Jesus I know, and Paul I know.” “Yes; I know Jesus, and tremble at his power; and I know Paul to be his servant, armed with authority to expel me and my companions from the bodies of men: but who are ye? What right have ye to speak to me in the style of command?” The name of Jesus pronounced by the lips of the profane, and the sign of the cross made by the sons of superstition, are pointless weapons, which the Leviathan of hell accounts mere stubble. The impiety of those magicians was instantly punished; for the man, with the assistance of the indignant spirit, “leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.”

I shall not enlarge upon the particulars of the story, but shall content myself with remarking, that the disaster which befel those profligate Jews, served two important purposes, connected with the honour and the success of the gospel. First, it demonstrated the vanity of the magic, by proving the insufficiency of one of its boasted resources, the virtue, which certain names and words were supposed to possess. Of this there could remain no doubt, since a name, which, when pronounced by one person, never failed to expel unclean spirits, had no efficacy, when pronounced by another. It was manifest, that its virtue was not in the sound. Secondly, it afforded the clearest evidence, that the miracles of the gospel were performed by a power superior to magic; for while a demon acknowledged his submission to the one he held the other in the utmost contempt. The name of Jesus was used by those vagabond Jews solely as a magical incantation. It took away, therefore, any pretext for confounding the Christian miracles with the feats of magic, as the heathens 301maliciously attempted to do; and it might have convinced those who were acquainted with the circumstances of the fact, that the religion which Paul preached was divine, because it was visibly attested by the finger of God himself.

It appears, from the next verse, that the event made a strong and general impression. “And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.” In particular, it brought magic into discredit with many who had formerly been devoted to it. “And many that believed came, and showed their deeds. Many also of them which used curious arts, brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.” In Ephesus, the study of magic was prosecuted with great ardour. Ephesian incantations were proverbial; and the Ephesian letters were certain words, which were believed to have sovereign efficacy in charms and invocations. But, now many who had been deluded by that vain science “showed their deeds,” acknowledging their past folly and wickedness, and vowing to renounce it for ever. They abandoned “their curious arts,” their inquiries into the names and operations of invisible beings, the modes of invoking them, and the mystical rites to be practised in their service. They, collected the books, containing the mysteries of magic, upon which they had expended large sums; and that they might be under no temptation to return to this enticing study, as well as to testify the abhorrence in which they held it, they publicly committed them to the flames. Their value has been differently estimated, according to the coin which is supposed to be meant by a piece of silver; but, perhaps, it amounted to several thousand pounds. It was a sacrifice to the glory of God, consumed in a fire, kindled by the hand of holy zeal. Some persons would have contented themselves with sending the books out of their houses, and would not have scrupled to dispose of them to others, who chose to prosecute the study. But, the converted Ephesians were actuated by more disinterested motives. Those books, over which they had wasted many a guilty hour, should no more minister to unhallowed curiosity, and serve to uphold the impure mysteries of paganism. While their indignation was roused against the impious art, their own loss did not engage their attention for a moment; and they had leisure to think only of the most effectual means of arresting its progress. And in an 302age, when books were comparatively rare, and copies were slowly multiplied, by the destruction of so many, the study of magic would be rendered less common, and the worthless science would sustain an injury, which could not be repaired without much time and expense.

The narrative is concluded with this remark: “So mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed.” It made its way with irresistible force, amidst the obstacles which opposed its progress. It was an evidence of its power, that it prevailed upon so many of the Ephesians to renounce an art, which, from the eagerness of mankind in all nations, and almost in every age, to acquire it, appears to be highly gratifying to the vain curiosity of the human mind; to acknowledge before all men, that what they lately esteemed wisdom was worse than folly; and to present the treasures of their learning as a sacrifice to the honour of religion.

The power of the gospel is as great in our times, as it was in the days of the Apostle. We may not, indeed, often observe it accomplishing a change so sudden and general, in the conduct of a large society; but it continues to produce effects similar and equal, upon the hearts and manners of the individuals who believe it. If it find a man conceited of his understanding, elated by science, full of worldly wisdom, and wedded to opinions inconsistent with the doctrines of revelation, it makes him renounce them as foolishness, and, from a conviction of his ignorance of the things of God, submit with humility to the instructions of Christ. If it find a man engaged in an unlawful employment, or conducting a lawful one, without regard to the principles of honour and justice, it persuades him to forego the gains of iniquity, and to prefer poverty with a good conscience, to the wealth which is the wages of sin. If it find a man pursuing a course of unhallowed pleasures, whatever power they have acquired over his heart, and however long he has been addicted to them, he instantly abandons them in disgust, and is ever after distinguished by sobriety and purity. In short, as an eloquent writer has said, if it find a man passionate, avaricious, sensual, and cruel, it will make him meek, liberal, temperate, and merciful. “For so great is the power of divine wisdom, that it is able to expel at once folly the mother of sin.”3939Lactan. iii. 25. The gospel is not like human 303discipline, which advances by a slow and imperceptible progress, gaining at one time, and losing at another; but it works a radical change of the heart, and accomplishes such a revolution in its principles, that the effect immediately appears in the reformation of the life. Philosophy may, with much labour, extort from the barren soil, a few dwarfish and sickly plants; but the gospel makes a rich harvest of heavenly graces and virtues spring up in the desert of the soul. It is the word of God, who speaks, and it is done.

Let us, then, by this criterion, determine whether our faith is sincere. If the gospel has humbled our pride, corrected our corrupt inclinations, reclaimed us from errors in principle and practice, and prevailed upon us, after the example of the Ephesians, to part with our favourite but unlawful pursuits, for the glory of God, it has come to us, “not in word only, but in power.” But, let that man, who retains his avarice, his dishonest arts, his intemperance, his envy and malice, know, that “his faith is vain, and he is yet in his sins.” The word of God “grows mightily and prevails,” not when it gives rise to much discussion about religion, and an ostentatious profession, accompanied with no solid fruits of holiness in the life; but when it silently purifies the heart, and gives a new form and direction to the conduct. Those who sincerely believe, pass, like the converted Ephesians, from the service of Satan to that of Jesus Christ. Recognising him as their Lord and Saviour, they submit to his authority; and whatever loss of property and reputation they may incur by the change, they cheerfully acquiesce in it, from a sense of duty, and in the assured hope, that they shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

304
« Prev Lecture XXII. Paul in Ephesus. Next »





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |