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This will, we trust, be found a plain and consistent account of this most intricate, perplexed, and embarrassed period of the Apostolical history from A.D. 44 to A D. 49, and also a just and necessary vindication of the first of the Apostles, Peter, from a charge of the most revolting inconsistency of conduct with his own doctrine; if, according to common opinion, we date his tergiversation at Antioch, after the magnanimous speech he made in the council of Jerusalem against the Judaizers; supposing (with the commentators,) that Peter went down to Antioch, Gal. ii. 11, about the same time with Paul and Barnabas, Acts xv. 30-35. Whereas, by dating it before the council, (with Basnage*,) and so early as the time of Herod's persecution, when Peter first went to Antioch, A.D. 44, Acts xii. 17, and was then followed by Paul and Barnbaas, Acts xii. 25, we may consider his speech as a public recantation of his former hypocrisy, and a proof of the most exemplary candour and humility, submitting patiently at the time, without reply, to the public correction administered to him, by the superior wisdom and spirit of the illustrious Apostle and advocate of the Gentiles; and afterwards manfully supporting him at the council, by the great weight of his authority, which silenced the Judaizers, and disposed the whole council to listen to Paul's statement. And how honourably did he speak of him afterwards?" Our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him,” 2 Pet. iii. 15, thus tacitly acknowledging his superior knowledge of the mystery of the Gospel, whom he loved without dissimulation, and gave him cordially the right hand of fellowship, to the end of their lives; and in death they were not divided. Both finishing their glorious career at Rome, A.D. 65. Great, indeed, was the regenerating and renovating influence of the HOLY SPIRIT upon the hearts and minds of those naturally high-minded and impetuous Apostles.
PAUL'S SECOND MISSION.
After the council of Jerusalem, A.D. 49, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, and made some stay there, probably during the remainder of that year, teaching and preaching the word of THE LORD, with many other assistants also, Acts xv. 30-35.
• Basnage judiciously remarks, that it must have happened before the council, for that Peter otherwise might have opposed the authority of their decree, as a shield against all the attacks of the Judaizers. See Lardner, VI. p. 538.
About the beginning of A.D. 50, Paul, who now decidedly. took the lead, proposed to Barnabas another circuit through the Churches they had planted in Asia Minor. But Barnabas, wanting to take with them his nephew Mark, as an assistant, Paul objected thereto, upon the score of his deserting them on the former circuit, in Pamphylia, (Acts xiii. 13.) Barnabas, however, jealous perhaps of Paul's ascendancy, persisted. This occasioned a quarrel, so that they parted company; Barnabas, taking with him Mark, proceeded to sail to Cyprus, his native country, and we hear of him no more: while Paul took to assist him Silas, the deputy from Jerusalem, who chose to remain at Antioch, and had been zealous in exhorting and confirming the Church there; and setting out with the approbation of the Church, commending him to the grace of GoD*; he passed through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the near Churches, and delivering to them the Apostolic decree. And the Churches were confirmed in the faith, and encreased in number daily, ver. 36-41, xvi. 4, 5.
At Lystra he also took another assistant, Timothy, his favourite pupil, whom he circumcised, (with his own consent,) because his mother was a Jewess; through a spirit of accommodation to the prejudices of the Jews in those quarters. Though he would not suffer Titus before to be circumcised, because both his parents were Gentiles, in order to assert the liberty of the Gentiles from the yoke of circumcision. Compare Acts xvi. 1-3, and Gal. ii. 3.
From Cilicia they passed through Phrygia and the regions of Galatia, where Paul had planted one of his earliest Churches. But he was mortified to find that the Galatians had been perverted from the simplicity of the faith which he preached, by the Judaizing teachers. This produced his expostulatory epistle to them soon after, as explained before.
On this circuit, as well as the former, their motions were guided by the HOLY SPIRIT. They intended next to preach the word in the adjacent district of Asia, (the ancient Lydia, or proconsular Asia, the capital of which was Ephesus,) but they were prevented by THE SPIRIT, and likewise from proceeding to Bithynia. So, passing to Mysia, they came to Troas, on the
This circumstance, omitted in the case of Barnabas, tacitly marks the Church's disapprobation of his schism, or separation from Paul.
sea coast, near the Hellespont, the HOLY SPIRIT not suffering them to waste time in Asia Minor, but intending that they should pass over to Europe, in order to sow a more abundant spiritual harvest. And this was signified to Paul by an allegorical vision at this sea port, by night. A Macedonian appeared to Paul, and besought him, saying, pass over into Macedonia, and help us*, ver. 6-9.
This was interpreted by Paul and his company, (whom Luke the Evangelist now joined at Troas, and henceforth continues the narrative in his joint person,) as an invitation from THE LORD. "Immediately," says Luke, "we sought to go from thence to Macedonia, collecting from the circumstances, that THE LORD had called us to preach the Gospel to them,"
Setting sail, therefore, from Troas, they went straight across to the Isle of Samothrace, and from thence to Neapolis, in Macedonia; and next to Philippi, the chief city of the first district of Macedonia, and a Roman colony. It was formerly called Crenides, from the numerous springs which join and form a river, noticed by the Evangelist, (Acts xvi. 13,) though not in the maps; and affording a specimen of his geographical accuracy. Here THE LORD opened the heart of Lydia, to become the first fruits of the Church of Philippi, with her family, who hospitably entertained the company, after a pressing invitation,
Here Paul performed that signal miracle of dispossessing the damsel that had a spirit of Python. See Vol. II. p. 325. This drew on him a persecution from her masters, who had turned her possession to their own gain; for they stirred up the magistrates
* This vision bears a striking analogy to that noticed before, to Alexander the Great, at Dios, in Macedonia, Vol. II. p. 533. As the Macedonian was invited over to Asia by a person in the dress of the Jewish high priest, to conquer the Persian empire, so was Paul the Apostle of CHRIST invited over from Asia to Macedonia by a seeming native, to deliver his country from the bondage of sin and Satan, by a spiritual conquest, more difficult, but more glorious; in which Daniel's "stone" was destined to smite in pieces the temporal kingdoms, which were Satan's seat, and the strength of which then lay in Europe, with the Roman empire.
And this analogy seems to be supported by the first fruits of the spiritual conquest, in the dispossession of the damsel at Philippi, who, though she had a spirit of Python, or of the old serpent, was yet compelled, by a superior controul, to render homage to the ambassadors of CHRIST- These men are servants of THE MOST HIGH GOD, who announce unto us the way of salvation!Thus did the demons of Europe, as well as of Asia, believe and tremble!
and the multitude to scourge and imprison Paul and Silas, as disturbers of the peace. But they were miraculously freed from their chains at night, and the jailor and his family converted by the signal miracle of the earthquake, and opening of the prison doors also; prefigurative, perhaps, of the spiritual deliverance of the people from the bondage of sin and Satan.
On this occasion Paul shewed the spirit of a Roman citizen, and intimidated the magistrates for their rash and illegal proceedings, in scourging such without trial; so that they came themselves in person to take them out of prison, and entreated them to quit the city, ver. 16-40. Here Luke seems to have left them, from the change of person in the narrative.
From Philippi they travelled through the country to Amphipolis and Apollonia, and came to Thessalonica, a maritime city, and the metropolis of that district of Macedonia where was a considerable Jewish settlement. In this city some of the Jews, and a great number of the pious Greeks, and women of rank believed, and joined Paul and Silas. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up a tumult against them and their friends, so that they were forced to quit the city, and go to Berea, (near Pella, where Alexander the Great was born.) The Jews here were more liberal minded than at Thessalonica, and better disposed to receive the Gospel, for they searched the Scriptures daily, whether the prophecies respecting THE MESSIAH were fulfilled in JESUS OF NAZARETH, whom Paul preached. Therefore many of them believed, and not a few of the respectable Greeks, both women and men. But the unbelieving Jews from Thessalonica, following him thither, stirred up opposition to Paul among the multitude, so that the brethren sent him away, and escorted him along the sea side to Athens, while Silas and Timothy remained behind with directions to follow him as soon as possible, Acts xvii. 1-15.
PAUL VISITS ATHENS.
While Paul waited for them at Athens, he was highly provoked in his spirit at the extravagant superstition of the city, which he saw "filled with temples, altars, and idols," (karειδωλον.)
There he debated in the Synagogue with the Jews and Proselytes; and in the market place daily, with the people whom he met; and preached JESUS and the Resurrection.
But some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him; and some said, What meaneth this babbler to say? but others, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange demons. The former were probably Epicureans, who denied a resurrection ; the latter, Stoics, who counted JESUS a demon, or hero*, according to their Theology, ver. 16—18.
The Greeks held, that demons were a middle class of beings between Gods and Men, and regarded them as mediators or agents between both. "GOD," says Plato, " doth not associate with Man; but all the commerce and conversation between them is carried on by demons. These are interpreters and carriers from men to Gods, and from Gods to men, of the prayers and sacrifices of the one; and of the commands and rewards of sacrifices from the other." And Apuleius states, that "all things are done by the will, power, and authority of the celestial Gods; but by the obedience, service, and ministry of the demons."
Of these demons, they held two sorts; terrestrial and celestial. Hesiod, the earliest perverter, perhaps, of their Theology, reckoned, that the former were the spirits of the men of the golden age, deified after death, by JOVE, the supreme God. (See Vol. I. p. 243, of this work.) And Plato approves his doctrine; "Hesiod says well; he, and many other poets, who say, that when a good man dies, he hath great honour and dignity, and is made a demon."-" And we ought for ever after, says Plato, to serve and adore their sepulchres as the sepulchres of demons.” The celestial demons were supposed to be a higher order of spirits; who were never subject to the incumbrances of the body; out of whom, rather, according to Plato, (correcting Hesiod's doctrine) were appointed the respective guardian Angels + of men, during the course of each man's life; such as the demon of Socrates, see p. 36 of this Volume.
This heathen "doctrine of demons," was well understood by Paul, so well skilled in the learning and philosophy of the Greeks, and thus combated by him in his Epistles.
• Αναξιφόρμιγγες ύμνοι,
Τινα Θεον, τιν' Ηρωα
Quem Virum aut Heroa, lyrâ, vel acri
Horat. Od. I. 12.
This was also a popular doctrine among the Jews, and seemed to be countenanced by some passages of Scripture, Gen. xviii. 1-10, xix. 1—22, Ps. xci. 11, Dan. xi. 22, x. 13, Tobit xii. 15; and our BLESSED LORD finely applied it to promote universal benevolence toward the least, or meanest of our brethren, Matt. xviii. 10.