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they were delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son. The old idolatrous worship, and the long adored deities, fell into contempt: the idol temples soon began to be, in a great measure, forsaken, and the boasted oracles, by means of which the nations had been so long kept under the power of delusion, were struck dumb. Instead of the “ lords many, and gods many,” which were acknowledged and adored among the heathens, the latter were now brought in great numbers to acknowledge and adore “ one God the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him.” Instead of the many absurd and impious rites of the Pagan worship, the Gospel taught them to worship God, who is an infinite Spirit, in spirit and in truth, that is, as he has manifested himself in the person and work of his beloved Son—to lift up holy hands without wrath and doubting, and offer up to him, through the Mediator, the spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise. The light of the Gospel spread far and wide with wonderful rapidity, but it was the light of divine truth, making its way silently and imperceptibly, without noise or clamor, without the aid of statesmen or politicians, or a body of pensioned clergymen, but like leaven in a mass of meal, to which our Lord most aptly compared his kingdom in one of his divine parables, Matt. xiii. 35, and in perfect consistency with what he himself said upon another occasion—“the kingdom of God cometh not with observation”--that is, with worldly pomp and show, striking the senses of mankind; it is “not in word but in power"--it consists in “ righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit;” for he that in these things serveth Christ is approved of God and acceptable to man. In a word it consists in the influence of divine truth enlightening the understanding, subduing the will, and regulating the affections, and thus bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. But we now return to the history of the ministry of the great apostle of the Gentiles.
Athens was at this time perhaps the principal city of Greece, and for its renown in science and literature was termed the “ seat of the Muses.” The apostle, on his arrival in it, took a survey of its moral state, and found it “wholly given up to idolatry :” a striking proof of what philosophy is competent to
SUCCESS OF PAUL'S MINISTRY AT ATHENS.
achieve for the children of men in regard to the knowledge of God and the way of happiness. Plato and Aristotle had in this city taught philosophy and established their academies, but with what effect? The citizens, under the tuition of these great men, still thought that “the Godhead was like unto gold, and silver, and stone, graven by art and man's device”—for of such materials were the objects of worship among the enlightened Athenians composed. Well indeed might the apostle's spirit be stirred within him when he witnessed such deplorable ignorance prevailing among them, amidst all the advantages of philosophy; and he proceeded to make known unto them the one living and true God, the giver of life and breath, and all things-the Creator, Preserver, and moral governor of the human race He in whom “ we live and move, and have our being," quoting Aratus, one of their own poets. The apostle then proceeded to address them on their accountability to God, as rational and immortal beings, reminding them that he had appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by his Son, Christ Jesus, of the certainty of which he had given assurance unto all, by raising șim from the dead. The doctrine of a resurrection from the dead, and of course a future state such as Christianity teaches, appeared to the philosophers quite ridiculous—“ some mocked, and others said we will hear thee again of this matter.” The apostle's doctrine, however, gained admission into the hearts of a few, who gave credit to it, and these laid the foundation of a Christian church, of which a succession of bishops is upon record, among whom are Euodius, Ignatius, Heros, Cornelius, Eros, Theophilus, who flourished A. D. 180, nor ought I to omit Quadratus, who in the year 123 drew up an apology for the Christians, which he presented to the emperor Adrian : but of this more hereafter.
From this once far-famed and much celebrated city let us now follow the apostle to Corinth, a place scarcely less renowned at that time than Athens was, for its numerous schools and colleges, or as the seat of learning and of polished life. We have the narrative in Acts xviii., from which we learn that on his arrival he was happy enough to meet with two eminent Christians who had been driven from Rome by a decree of the emperor Claudius, the object of which was the banishment of
all Jews from Italy; and that, attaching himself to them, they, as in other instances, frequented the Jewish synagogue every Sabbath, reasoning with them as at Thessalonica, and persuading both the Jews and the Greeks concerning Jesus of Nazareth, whom he testified to be the Christ or true Messiah. Concise as the Evangelist Luke's narrative is, we may without difficulty collect from it a tolerable picture of the rancorous hostility which was produced, on the part of the Jews, to the apostle's doctrine. They are described as “opposing themselves” to it with vehea mence, “contradicting and blaspheming,” insomuch that the apostle “ shook his raiment,” and said “ Your blood be upon your own heads. I am clean—from henceforth I go unto the Gentiles.” But though the great bulk of the Jews resisted the apostle's testimony, the chief ruler of the synagogue believed, as did all his household likewise, and Justus, whose house adjoined the synagogue-and, in short, “many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed, and were baptized,” ver. 8..
This laid the foundation of the church of the Corinthians, to which the apostle afterwards wrote the two epistles that are still on record—a church that was second to none in the number of its spiritual gifts, though unhappily not the most united or exemplary in its order and obedience, and greatly deficient in the grace of charity. That however was the effect, not of the truth which they had received, but of evil influence, or the emissaries of the wicked one getting access among them and propagating corrupt doctrine, the fruitful source of all discord. Having gathered the disciples together into a church state, and given them the ordinances of the house of God to observe, it would appear that the apostle was about to take his departure from Corinth, when the Lord Jesus appeared to him in a vision by night, and encouraged him to continue his labours, adding, “I have much people in this city,”-assuring him of safety and protection-the consequence of which was that Paul continued at Corinth a year and a half, teaching the word of God among them. But I must not dismiss the narrative of the success of the Gospel at Corinth, without adding that this city, like Athens and Ephesus, was the sink of vice and idolatry when the apostle first came to preach the Gospel there. For dissoluteness of manners indeed it was proverbial—so muchso that we are told
success OF THE GOSPEL AT CORINTH.
a Corinthian female was, in those days, nearly equivalent to a courtezan among us—and this may account to you for the apostle dwelling so much as he does in his epistles to that church on the evil of fornication, and the opposite virtues of continence and chastity. But, in addition to this, the city abounded with idolatrous temples, in which sacrifices were continually offered to the heathen deities, attended with the most impure and disgusting rites, to all which there are numerous allusions and pointed references in Paul's epistles to them. I may quote one single passage as a specimen of the whole, “ Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived ; neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” What a catalogue of vicious characters is here enumerated by the apostle! but why has he done it? Observe his own words_" and such were some of you --but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God," 1 Cor. vi. 9-11. And what was the doctrine which the apostle preached among them and which was so wonderfully efficacious in reclaiming such abandoned characters as those he has enume rated ? and with what powers of persuasion and eloquence was it enforced? We have the apostle's own account of the matter, eh. ii. 1, &c. :-" And I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God; for I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified; and I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling; and my speech and my preaching was not with the persuasible words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” These were the weapons of the apostolic warfare: and they were mighty through divine influence; the apostle could say to the Corinthians “ I have begotten you by means of the Gospel”-“the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.” And so we find him exulting in the success of his ministry among them in the following strains : “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and
maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved and in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of life unto life, and to the other of death unto death--and who is sufficient for these things ?” 2 Cor. ii. 14-16.
Arriving at EPHESUS, the apostle was joined by Apollos, a Jew by nation, and born at Alexandria in Egypt. He appears to have been a disciple of John the Baptist, and, though an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, he was but imperfectly instructed in the way of the Lord. Priscilla and Aquila, however, perceiving the imperfection of his knowledge, “ took him and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly,” by informing him that Jesus of Nazareth was the true Messiah, the Son of God, whose coming John had announced—that he had died and risen again, and ascended into heaven, and sent down the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, and set up his kingdom in the world ; facts which must have added greatly to the stock of knowledge which Apollos previously possessed. Thus qualified, and having obtained letters of recommendation to the church of Corinth, Apollos proceeded thither to water the seed which Paul had planted ; and we are told that “ he helped them much which through grace had believed ;” and not only so, but he was eminently instrumental in making fresh converts; “ for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.” Acts xviii. 24-28.
Ephesus was at this time the metropolis of the province of Asia, and an exceedingly populous city. But its, state in regard to religion and morals was deplorable in the extreme-it was the very throne of idolatry, superstition, and magic. The apostle had gotten a glance of its actual state while on his former journey, but, having made up his mind to attend the feast of the passover at Jerusalem, he could not be prevailed upon then to tarry at Ephesus, but, bidding his friends there farewell, he promised to return again, if the Lord permitted, and accordingly sailed from Ephesus.
The principal object of worship among the Ephesians was the heathen goddess Diana, to whose honour they had erected one of the most magnificent temples in the eastern world. It contained an image, or statue, of the goddess, which the people of