Imatges de pàgina
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strivings-yield to its impressions-attend' on the instructions of the word. Receive them with a teachable mind-and wait upon God continually in the way which he has prescribed.

Then shall ye know, if ye follow on to know. Seek eternal life by a continuance in well doing. This is a day of hope; lay hold on the hope set before you.

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ACTS XVII. 12-17.

And when Gallio was deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him before the judgment seat, saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law. And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong, or of wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would, that I should bear with you. But if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters. And he drave them from the judgment seat. Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of these


RELIGION is a matter of such universal importance, that, if observation did not shew us the contrary, we should suppose it would engage the most serious attention of every man, who had an opportunity to acquaint himself with it. Common reason teaches us, that we ought principally to attend to our highest interest. Religion instructs us what this is, where it lies, and how it may be secured. Religion therefore ought to be every man's first concern. And yet a great part of mankind, yea, many of super

rior rank and education, appear as indifferent to it, as if it were a mere fable or romance. And among those who seem to have some kind of zeal for it, you will see not a few, whose zeal is little else than pride, curiosity and party design.

These two tempers with regard to religion, indifference and false zeal, both equally wrong, and equally inconsistent with the spirit of the gospel, remarkably appeared in the persons mentioned in the story now before us. The Jews and Greeks, warmed against each other by religious differences, proceeded to open violence. Gallio was perfectly indifferent about the matter in question, and cared not which party was in the right, or whether either of them.

In order to understand the characters here exhibited, it will be useful to attend a little to the story. Gallio was governor of Achaia, one of the ancient Grecian states; but, at that time, a province of the Roman empire. The chief city was Corinth, a place distinguished by wealth, learning and vice. Here Paul spent a year and six months preaching the gospel; and he found considerable success. The Jews had a synagogue in the city, the chief ruler of which was Crispus. This man, under Paul's ministry, became a convert to the gospel, and was baptized with all his family. He now, it seems, resigned his office, or was removed from it; for soon after his conversion, Sosthenes is called the chief ruler, and is represented as being at the head of the party, which rose against Paul.

In this synagogue Paul used to preach every Sabbath, not only to Jews, but also to Greeks, many of whom came to hear this new and extraordinary preacher. The Greeks were a curious and inquisitive people, and very fond of hearing those who taught any thing new. The Jews offended at the doctrine of Paul, especially at his asserting the abolition of the legal ceremonies, and the sufficiency of faith in Christ to salvation, made an insurrection against him, and brought him before Gallio, the governor of the province, alleging, that he persuaded men to worship God contrary to their law.

We here see the force of prejudice, and into what palpable inconsistences it will drive men. The Jews condemned the Ro

man dominion over them as an unjust usurpation and a cruel oppression. They were anxious to shake off the yoke. Had a man pleaded in defence of it, they would have denounced him as an enemy of their nation. But they would apply to it, when they could serve their own turn by it. They would bring Paul before a Roman governor to obtain judgment against him even in a matter of religion, which of all things is most remote from the proper jurisdiction of a civil magistrate.

Paul hearing the accusation laid against him, arose to make his defence. But the governor stopped the process. He said to the accusers; "If it were a matter of wrong, or of wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would, that I should bear with you; but if it be a question of words, and of names, and of your law, look ye to it, for I will be no judge of such matters." If ye had brought a charge against this man for any injury, or trespass, or violation of the laws of the state, I would patiently hear you. But if it be only a question, whether his doctrine be agreeable to your law; whether the name of Messiah belong to Jesus whom he preaches, and whether his religion or yours be the truth, I shall not interpose. You may dispute it out between you. So he drave them from the judgment seat.

Gallio, indeed, as a magistrate had no concern in this matter. But as a man, he was as much interested in it as Paul himself. Every man has a right to think for himself in things which relate merely to religion; and he ought to be at liberty to examine and judge without fear or control. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. Though the magistrate is bound to aid and protect what he believes to be the true religion, yet he is never to punish men for a religious opinion, nor for speaking or professing that opinion, in case it interferes not with the peace of society, which truth never does.

But though Gallio had no right to decide judicially in the matter brought before him; yet it was infinitely important to himself, that he should decide conscientiously, and settle his own private judgment. The question referred to him, whether Jesus, whom Paul preached, was the Saviour of a guilty world, and whether the doctrine, which Paul taught, was the true way of salvation,

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ought to have engaged his most serious attention. He had now a fine opportunity to gain the necessary information. One of the most noted preachers of christianity was brought before him and accused for his doctrine. This preacher was now opening his mouth to explain and defend his religion. Would Gallio have had a little patience, he might have heard what it was, and on what foundation it stood, and might soon have been able to judge whether he ought to become a christian. But he abruptly dismissed the business; not merely because he would not interefere in a case foreign to his judicial character, but because it was a matter of religion, in which he was not disposed to concern himself either as a magistrate or a man.

The Greeks resented the abuse which the Jews had offered to Paul. And finding that the governor would not patronize the Jews, they immediately seized Sosthenes, the head of the Jewish faction, and beat him before the judgment seat. Gallio looked silently on; he would not use his authority so far as to preserve peace and order in his own presence. He cared for none of these things. Religion, he saw, was the object of the quarrel. It was a matter too low for his interference. He would leave the parties to fight it out among themselves.

We see in these Jews the extravagances of a blind, religious zeal. We see in the Greeks the mischievous effects of vain curiosity and self-conceit. And in Gallio we see a proud indifference to all religion. It will be useful to employ a few thoughts on each of these tempers.

I. We will consider the extravagance of that religious zeal which actuated the Jews.


Bigotted to their own sentiments and usages, they despised all who embraced not the same, and persecuted all who dared to oppose them, or even to dissent from them. The apostle says, "They killed the Lord Jesus, and have persecuted us. They please not God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved." When Paul preached the doctrines of Christ to the Jews in Corinth, influenced by this spirit of bigotry, they opposed themselves and blasphemed; rose against him tumultuously, and brought him before

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