When the seven days were almost over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him,
I. THE FOLLY AND THE GUILT OF FANATICISM.
1. Its folly.
(1) In the first place, it employs a weapon with which it is easily matched. It has recourse to violence (ver. 31); but violence is a usage which others can easily adopt, and it may be with more effect (ver. 32). If religion calls in the aid of the sword, it is likely enough to find the sword directed, at the next turn of events, against itself.
(2) It uses a weapon which is not at all fitted to its hand. Physical force is not the appointed method for regenerating the world; "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal," but spiritual. The "kingdom not of this world" does not want its servants to "fight" with steel and gunpowder.
(3) It assails those who, if it would but consider, are its truest friends. Out of regard for the Law, these fanatical Jews "went about to kill" Paul. The multitude shouted "Away with him!" (ver. 36). But if they had known better they would, out of regard for the Law, have speeded Paul on his mission. For Judaism, pure and simple, would inevitably have perished; but Judaism, as surviving in the truths and institutions of Christianity, is destined to last as long as time itself, and to he universal in its range. Had they thought more and looked further, they would have honored him whom they were in such haste to kill.
2. Its guilt.
(1) It charges a man with a crime of which he is absolutely innocent (vers. 28, 29).
(2) It proceeds to punish without giving a chance of defending (vers. 30, 31).
(3) It denies to a man that which God has bestowed, and which it claims for itself - a right to his convictions.
(4) It dashes itself blindly and vehemently against the purposes of God. At this time it was striking at Christ's chosen ambassador, and, without exception, the most useful servant of God then living. At many times since then, it has stricken the men who represented the truth of Christ, and has done sore evil to the Church, and so to the world.
II. THE EXCELLENCY OF CHRISTIAN DEVOTEDNESS. How admirably the attitude of Paul contrasts with the movements of this excited, tumultuous, sanguinary mob! We admire
(1) his courage in placing himself in the position;
(2) his calmness throughout (vers. 37-39);
(3) his readiness (ver. 40) - he was prepared at any emergency to speak the needful word. We admire it because we are sure that it all rested upon
(4) his consecration to the cause, and his assurance of the presence of his Divine Master. - C.
And when the seven days were almost ended the Jews which were of Asia...stirred up all the people.1. Unholy zeal is more easily occasioned than good works (vers. 27-30).
2. Religious accusations are frequently the result of excitement, and thus liable to be unjust. Giving a new, spiritual interpretation to old rites, customs, etc., is by many stamped as desecration and unbelief (ver. 28).
3. Enthusiastic devotion to duty may entail misapprehension and inconvenience (ver. 27-30).
4. By their endorsements of the deeds of the past men show themselves the "children of their fathers" either for good or for evil (ver. 36).
5. In the best of causes one may be sometimes mistaken for an agent of the worst (ver. 38; Matthew 12:24).
6. Political indifference may be more equitable than ecclesiastical jealousy and rancour (vers. 31-40).
7. God overrules all events in the lives of His servants for the highest purposes.
(A. F. Muir, M. A.)
I. The OUTBREAK of the storm. Suddenly and not to be reckoned on, as often a storm occurs in nature, this storm breaks out among the people. The tempest which Paul had seen from a distance at Miletus, and which was predicted to him on the way in a more and more threatening manner, discharges itself on a sudden, and in a place least to be expected, in the temple, while Paul sought to satisfy the zealots of the law.
II. The RAGING of the storm. The storm of the passions increases continually, the popular fury heaves and swells as a raging sea, and threatens to swallow up the servant of God.
III. The STILLING of the storm. He who formerly rebuked the wind and waves on the Lake of Gennesareth, so that there was a great calm, speaks to the raging sea — "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther." The Roman tribune has to open the harbour of refuge to the apostle; and he himself with calm composure beckons to the people so that they become still.
(K. Gerok.)I. THE ACCUSATION BROUGHT AGAINST PAUL.
1. Its nature.
2. The agents.
II. ITS REASONS.
1. The ostensible.
2. The real.
III. ITS RESEMBLANCE TO THE CHARGE PREFERRED AGAINST CHRIST — polluting the temple.
IV. ITS RESULTS. Conclusion: — Learn —
1. That there are always persons ready to attack the servants of God.
2. That these attacks are made on any pretext however slight.
3. That we should Hot be dismayed, but rely on God for protection.
(J. H. Tasson.)
I. THE DIVISIONS IN THE CHURCH. As we get a pitiable sort of comfort in finding that even prophets and apostles were men of like passions with ourselves, so with the failures of the early Church. We have no hindrances which they did not overcome. That fair picture of brotherly love and self-forgetfulness which we saw at Pentecost is spoiled by a clique determined to rule or ruin. The Judaising party are chargeable with Paul's captivity in Cesarea, his shipwrecks, his imprisonment at Rome, and ultimately his death. The dangers of heresy and innovations are understood, but less is said of the mischiefs of an unwise conservatism — a dogged obstinacy in clinging to old methods and resisting those who long to bring the work of the Church to the demands of the times. Usually they are a minority who oppose; they alone have feelings to be considered, convictions to be respected; and usually they have their way, to the injury of the Church and the honour of those who sacrifice feeling and judgment to the desire for peace. Yet even peace can be purchased too dearly.
II. AN OVERRULING PROVIDENCE. Since God has chosen to conduct His kingdom on earth through men, He must continually be at hand to wrest some advantage out of their inevitable errors. The nation's sin had brought it under the Roman power; but had there been only Jewish authority in Jerusalem that day there had been no rescue for Paul. Heathen Rome is under the King of kings. Its power protects His apostle, gets the gospel a hearing before rulers, and gives the preacher his desired opportunity to visit the world's capital.
III. THE STRENGTH OF BELIEVERS. They glory in tribulation. This whole scene rebukes the thought that we can judge God's feelings toward us, by the ease or painfulness of our life. We want an ungodly world to act in the ways of the millennium. What are we, that when disaster comes we sit down and cry despairingly, God has forgotten me? Have we fared like the chief apostle? Have we been smitten like Christ? We are nearest the Saviour in our sorest need, and rest absolutely on the everlasting arms only when all other help has given way. Then come peace and assurance which we have vainly tried to gain in easier times. Then, too, our own resources get a fresh power. The most beset and helpless man of all here is the apostle; but do what they will to him, he is the one calm, masterful soul there. His knowledge, his experience of mobs, a bearing both courteous and dignified, give him control of the stolid and furious alike.
(C. M. Southgate.)
S. S. Times.I. SUFFERING ASSAULT.
1. When religion degenerates into a matter of rites and ceremonies, there is manifested very great zeal for forms, and very little zeal for truth.
2. When the Jews planned to convict Paul of false teaching, they indulged in a great deal of falsehood that they might accomplish their object.
3. When the Jews merely "supposed" that Paul had brought Trophimus into the temple, they accused the apostle before the people without the least hint that they were basing their charge on a mere supposition.
4. When the people heard, they "ran together" without further invitation. Meetings called for the worst purposes usually need the least advertising.
5. When Paul was dragged out, the doors Were shut. The murderous bloodthirsty Jews were so afraid that some microscopic temple ordinance might be polluted.
6. When the mob had beaten Paul, and attempted to kill him, the tidings speedily reached the police station that something was the matter. The ancient police officer seems not to have slept as serenely as the modern police officer does.
7. When it is only a poor persecuted apostle, or street preacher, or member of the Salvation Army, who is being assaulted, it is unusual for the world's police forces to be so quick in learning of the disturbance.
II. SUFFERING ARREST.
1. One may wear chains, and still not be a felon or a slave.
2. One may be compelled to wear chains, not to keep him from escaping, but to help him to escape. Thus Paul wore them.
3. One may enter prison walls, and not be a convict. Paul was never convicted of anything worse than of utter fearlessness in duty doing.
4. One may be protected from two classes of enemies by their mutual hatred of one another. Thus was Paul saved from the hostile Jews by the indifferent Romans.
5. One may be hustled into safety by the very violence of the attacks upon him. Thus the mob crowded Paul, borne in the soldiers' arms, within the castle.
6. One and the same evil cry meg the ears of the Divine Master and of His great apostle — "Away with him."
III. SUFFERED TO SPEAK.
1. After the world's police forces do learn of a disturbance, they are prone to rush out and mistake the harmless, defenceless, unresisting apostle as the dangerous leader of four thousand bloodthirsty assassins!
2. After all, the Apostle Paul is not as defenceless as he seems. He has all the resources of Christian bravery, and God is on his side.
3. After he has been roughly treated by the foes of Christ, the true disciple of Christ still shows no disposition to run away, but remains to address the rabble.
4. After a fully consecrated heart, nothing is more desirable in a Christian worker than a clear head and steady nerves.
5. After Paul had done his duty, he let God take care of the consequences, and he evidently cared more for the safety of the cause than he did for his own security.
(S. S. Times.)
I. THE GENIUS OF RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE. Three things come out which always characterise this: —
1. Cunning — indicated in the watchword, "Men of Israel, help! " hereby naively intimating that Paul was an enemy to Israel, and that all should make a common cause in crushing him. Religious bigotry ever works by artifice and insinuation.
2. Falsehood.(1) It fabricates false allegations (ver. 28). This was all a spiteful fiction.(a) Did Paul "teach all men everywhere against the people"? It is true he denounced their bigotry, and exclusiveness; but never their race, and their high distinctions.(b) Did he ever disparage "the law"? He taught that its ceremonies were not binding upon Gentile disciples, nor of eternal obligation even unto the Jew; but always displayed a profound regard for it as a Divine institution, the glory of the ancient world.(c) Did he ever speak "against this place"? He taught that God dwelt not "in temples made with hands"; but never a word did he utter in dishonour of the temple.(d) Did he ever bring "Greeks into the temple, and pollute the holy place"? No; they only "supposed" that he did — they perhaps saw Paul walking in the streets with Trophimus, and rushed to this conjecture.(2) But whilst all those charges are groundless, they bear testimony to Paul's —(a) Notoriety. "This is the man"; implying that he is well known, and that none require any further particulars. This Paul has in a few years painted his image on the imagination of the Jewish people.(b) Industry. "He taught all men, everywhere." Thus, they unwittingly confirmed the apostle's own description of his labours, and also his biographer's account of his marvellous activity.(c) Power. Had he been obscure and of feeble influence, they would have spoken and acted differently. They felt, he was a man of such colossal influence as required the force of a whole nation to. confine.
3. Violence. Religious intolerance does not argue, for it lacks an intelligent faith in its own cause. It has, therefore, ever had recourse to fraud and force.
II. THE GENIUS OF A MOB ASSEMBLY. Men are pretty well the same in all ages. The mob gathered in the streets of Jerusalem evinced just those things which mobs show now in Paris, New York, or London. Here is —
1. Credulousness. The false charges were accepted without any inquiry. "All the city was moved." Man is naturally a credulous animal, and this propensity gets intensity in association with numbers. Hence what even a credulous man will not believe when alone, he readily accepts from the lip of a demagogue. Men accept creeds in churches which they repudiate in private discussion. Mobs will swallow whatever is offered.
2. Senselessness. "Some cried one thing, and some another." The mob at Ephesus (Acts 19:32) acted in the same way. A sad sight this. It is this senselessness that makes the opinions of mobs so worthless, their movements so reckless, and their existence so dangerous.
3. Contagiousness. "The people ran together," and when they came together their hearts surged with the same common passions. One man's thought, whether good or bad, may influence a nation. Conclusion. Note —
1. The great mixture of characters in social life. Here are Evangelical Christians, Asiatic Jews, Romans, Paul.
2. The great advantage of civil government.
3. The antagonism of the depraved heart to Christianity.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
I. AN AGGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY ENCOUNTERS AFFLICTIONS. If Jesus Christ has made anything clear it is surely this, that the loyalty of His disciples to Himself will provoke persecution. With a noble frankness, worthy of all admiration, He warned all would be disciples of this inevitable fact. "I came not to send peace but a sword." "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves." If His precepts were thus writ large and clear in His own example, why should His disciples expect to escape? Paul followed his Lord in both teaching and precept. He wrote, "All that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." Persecution has been the common lot of pronounced ambassadors of Christ, and, with shame be it said, that persecution has in many cases had origin with the so-called people of God themselves. , Savonarola, Huss, Wycliffe, Luther, Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Hannington, the , the , the , the Pilgrims: how ample was their heritage of persecution, and with what sublime heroism did they receive it! The suffering of affliction for Christ's sake is inevitable. Why it is so Jesus clearly stated to His unbelieving brothers, as He was about to start to Jerusalem to attend the last Feast of Tabernacles in His earthly ministry. "The world cannot hate you, but Me it hateth, because I testify of it that its works are evil." This was the real reason of Paul's terrible treatment at Jerusalem at the hands of the unbelieving Jews from Asia, and it has been the spring of all the persecution of Christ's followers the Christian ages through. Persecution is as irrational as it is inevitable. Those Asiatic Jews incited the multitude against Paul on wholly false charges. Listen to them. "This is the man that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place; and moreover he brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath defiled this holy place." Every count in this indictment was untrue. At the very moment in which they preferred it Paul's course as to the Nazarite vow proved its utter falsity.
II. AFFLICTIONS MANIFEST THE DEPTH OF CHRISTIAN HAPPINESS. God's people are a happy people. Christ's disciples sing for joy in the night of their tribulations, since Christ Himself, who is their Life, possessed a serene joy that no afflictions could ruffle. So strong was His faith in His Father and His love for Him, that these yielded Him a peace whose tranquil deeps the cruel and unrelenting persecution of Pharisee and Sadducee had no power to disturb. "The kingdom of God is joy and peace in the Holy Ghost." Paul's experience of his Lord's love was yet so delightful that he yearned to tell the glad tidings to his very murderers, saying to the commander, "I beseech thee, give me leave to speak unto the people."
III. AFFLICTIONS PROVE THE STRENGTH OF CHRISTIAN PURPOSE. They both put it to the test and make it evident. "Tribulation worketh patience, and patience approvedness or tried character, and tried character hope." The crowning glory of Jesus was a glory of the will in the face of a relentless persecution that finally sent Him to the Cross. How strikingly this appears in Luke's description of Him, "He set His face to go to Jerusalem." Jesus' reign over a human soul culminates in the will. Unless He is king there He is no king at all. The history of His influence over men has shown how splendidly He has commanded the will energy of His true disciples in the development of such traits of character as fortitude, endurance, heroism, those virtues which are essentially martial in their temper and make their possessors "terrible as an army with banners." These soldierly qualities thrive under persecution. They seem unable to come to their best quality without it. Paul's last journey to Jerusalem and its climax in the scene in the temple were among the most convincing evidences of will triumph in the midst of crushing afflictions that the annals of heroism furnish. The real heroes of the world are not the Alexanders, the Hannibals, the Caesars, the Napoleons, but Jesus, Paul, , , Simeon, Brainerd, Carey, Mackay. These, and such as these, display the most exalted courage, confronting foes more invincible and threatening than any those great military chieftains ever faced on field s of carnage. The lesson for us of our study of Paul at Jerusalem is this: It sounds out a clarion call to the disciples of Jesus in this generation, in all Christian lands, for fidelity. In our time the love of temporal comfort is almost sovereign. Our sense life is in sore peril of becoming insubordinate by the encouraging environment in which it passes its days. Our civilisation is a selfish civilisation. It is very easy to live a luxurious life. It is very hard to live a self-denying life for Jesus Christ's sake. The apostle Paul, that "good soldier of Jesus Christ," thus owned his loyalty to the Captain of his salvation, "I am ready to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."
(J. M. English, D. D.)
1. He was truly a lover of his own people. Wherever he went he sought them out first, not only because strategically this was wisest, but because he truly liked to be with them. He was never above feeling satisfaction in the thought that he had been born a Jew. He loved to go to the feasts at the capital. Undoubtedly Paul had more real sympathy with Jewish religious ideas than many of those in the crowd who condemned him.
2. There was a possibility, we might safely say a certainty, that Paul's position would be misunderstood. For while he kept up his Jewish habits it was not because he thought (as the Jews thought) that they had saving power. They were external matters connected chiefly with ways of living and ways of worshipping. They were not really essential to the religious life, but only helpful in it, if one thought them helpful and used them aright. Among Gentiles Paul did not observe them. The Jews looked upon them as necessary for all. In a certain limited sense Paul stood by Jewish habits. And yet his removing them from the class of necessaries to the class of things optional was undoubtedly the first step towards their abolition. Paul's position thus had such complex relations that it was difficult to be understood and pretty certain to be misrepresented.
3. His immediate intention in the matter which brought him into difficulty was good. He had no intention towards the Jews. He was not trying to conciliate them. His mind was upon the thousands of Jews who had become Christians (ver. 20) who were still zealous for the law, i.e., kept up faithfully Jewish habits of living. For them Paul held that this was perfectly right (so long, of course, as they did not ascribe saving power to such habits). He bad been reported as taking the position that they were wrong. In order to put himself into cordial relations with them and to reassure them concerning himself, he undertook the open performance of a vow. His design in the matter was wholly honourable and kind.
II. THE DISTURBERS.
1. Their motive was hatred towards Paul. They came down from Ephesus full of their experiences of Paul's troubles there. At Ephesus they had been thwarted. It was not a Jewish city. At Ephesus Paul had some chance of justice, and the Jews were hopeless of thwarting him. At Jerusalem the tables were turned. There Jewish sentiment was not only enormously preponderant, it was also intense beyond words.
2. They carried out their purpose by spreading skilful misrepresentations of Paul's position. This charge was a deft combination of truth and falsehood, For the wickedest lie is not that which is downright, for that can easily be disproven, but that which is subtly, insinuatingly exaggerative, where the admission of the innocent element of truth which lies at its foundation puts the man who is repelling it in the attitude of a culprit. Paul had not taught against the Jews by any means; he had honoured them everywhere; he had proclaimed himself a Jew. But of course he had said that being a Jew would not save one. The things alleged against Paul had back of them something which he would have had to admit as true. But it was exaggerated, misinterpreted, and supplemented by an absolute lie.
3. The strength of the attack against Paul lay in its appeal to the religious feelings of the crowd. That which was best in them was used for the lowest ends. Nothing is more awful in human nature than the possibility of crime in the name of religion; and how frequently it has darkened the page of history. And some people are so indiscriminating as to lay the blame of all this upon religion. It is as just to condemn the real coin for the existence of the counterfeit.
III. THE CROWD.
1. They accepted as true the lies of the Ephesian Jews. They had courts whose business it was to investigate such offences as were alleged against Paul. Without investigation, without so much as a question, they accepted as true what might easily have been shown to be false.
2. Just as readily they accepted the motives of the Ephesian Jews as honourable. What sanctity! What zeal for the temple of the Lord! And all the time the real motive of these scheming Ephesians was nothing more than vile, unscrupulous hatred.
3. They were already prejudiced against him. The words of the Ephesians, "This is the man" (ver. 28), shows that Paul was known by reputation. The people had their minds already made up concerning him. They did not want investigation upon his case. Again, as often before, Jerusalem knew not the day of her visitation. In her sinful prejudice she was ready, consistently with her attitude all through history, to slay the best of her sons.
IV. THE OUTCOME.
1. God was a factor at work upon which the Jews were not counting. "Those whom neither the majesty of God nor pious respect for the temple could restrain from madness, respect for a profane man now subdues" (Calvin). And in the conduct of that man the God whom they so impiously disregarded was at work. Thus far could their madness go and no farther. His word, which can check the mighty ocean, put its restraint upon the wrath of men.
2. An immediate result for good was brought about, in that Paul had an opportunity to address the multitude. Such an opportunity he might have sought long and in vain.
3. The riot in the temple had a bearing far off in the future. The testimony at Rome was made possible by the riot at ,Jerusalem. And so the wrath of man ministered to the praise of God. The Jews sought to kill Paul, and they succeeded in giving him opportunity to hold up the Cross before the Lord of the world.
V. FINAL LESSONS.
1. Our failures as well as our successes have their place in God's plan. Paul was trying to conciliate some of his fellow Christians when he fell into trouble. God not only exchanges our failures for success, He makes them means of success.
2. Inferences from others' actions are always dangerous. The Jews imputed to Paul motives that did not belong to him. They were too sure of the accuracy of their own reasoning ability. Let us be careful how we put meanings into others' conduct.
3. A multitude is a dangerous leader. It is good advice to keep always out of crowds. Beware of the multitude. Serve thou God and Him only.
(D. J. Burtell, D. D.)
I. THE UNCONSCIOUS MINISTRY OF THE POWERS OF THIS WORLD. Rome knew nothing of Jesus save as a peasant disturber of the peace and something of a fanatic. It knew nothing of Paul, and cared nothing for the heroism and devotion of his splendid apostleship. Rome was bound, hand and foot, by debasing idolatry; but a bodyguard of invisible angels could not have done more to save the great apostle for continued ministry, for those inspired epistles from Nero's dungeons, and for an honourable martyrdom which should set its seal of dignity to an unparalleled life. So, in all the years, human schemes, with a horizon wholly confined to earth, are unfailing servitors of Divine plans which span the ages.
II. FORCE HAS AN INDISPENSABLE PLACE IN THE DIVINE ECONOMY. What could persuasion have done with those Jewish zealots, fired with murderous purpose? They had doomed Paul to death. They are typical cases of men hurried by one passion or another beyond the pale of conscience or reason. It is well to rely upon persuasion for the most part in dealing with our fellows for their good and our own safety, as individuals and communities; but there are many times when, and persons for whom, nothing is sufficient but brute force — meaning by this a compulsion which shall be inevitable and overpowering. The Roman empire was raised up to give gospel messengers their needed safeguard until their work was done. The Church needs substantially the same safeguard today — not herself using force to bring about spiritual results; but Christ's disciples must have civil guardianship and, in free governments, they must act well their part to provide it for themselves. Force must meet force.
III. THE EASY CURRENCY OF FALSE CHARGES IN TIME OF EXCITEMENT. Paul had not brought Greeks within the sacred and guarded precincts of the temple; but it was enough for the frenzied Jews that, somewhere in the outside city, they had seen an Ephesian with him. At once they jumped to the conclusion that his associates in the sacred courts were heathen. Doubtless many in the excited mob were strangers to Paul, but they had caught the contagion and unthinkingly condemned him as bitterly as long time enemies could do. How obvious the duty of prudence and deliberation when excitement blinds the populace and hardens the heart! Excitement is almost incapable of justice.
IV. THE COURAGE OF A DIVINE MISSION. Paul measured the deadly purpose of his countrymen far more adequately than the Roman captain could have done, and at first view we would think the security of Antonia's inner wards would have been eagerly sought by him; but no; he faces the throng and heroically tries to capture their attention, judgment, and esteem. He was steadied in heart and cleared in thought by his conscious apostleship. He was engaged in His Master's work. He could not despair, whatever the crisis or obstacle. The Christian warrior does not believe in mere defensive warfare; he feels the urgency of an imperilled cause, the brevity of his opportunity, and he must be on the aggressive, whatever the opposition.
V. THE FAITH AND LOVING PERSEVERANCE OF CHRISTLIKE SERVICE. Why did not Paul throw over his murderous fellow countrymen as hopeless, upon whom he would not waste another word? Behind him were years of unwearied toil and sacrifice on their behalf. But, like the loving physician dealing with deadly disease, he leaves nothing undone to befriend his worst assailants as long as a fraction of opportunity remains. Here, again, the great missionary to the Gentiles is a pattern for a large following. Pastors may be requited with indifference, or worse, after most unselfish devotion; but in no case must the mission of Christ be abandoned or its continuance enfeebled in plan or spirit.
VI. EVERYTHING GOOD IN THIS WORLD IS ONLY AN APPROXIMATION. These maddened Jews bent on murder were the outcome of Divine plans and processes for centuries. They represented people who had been in training for the glad star of Bethlehem. How great the apparent failure of prophetic vision and Divine agency! But it was not all a failure. In the early Christian Church were multitudes of Jews born again in Christ. The Christian worker will save himself discouragement and loss of energy, if he keeps in mind the insufficiency of man at his best, and copies the patience of the Divine Master workman when hedged about with difficulties and success seems meagre and imperfect.
VII. THE MOUNTAINS OF DIFFICULTY ENCOUNTERED AND LEVELLED BY CHRISTIANITY. Is the gospel ship storm-tossed? Do obstacles tower and the future seem full of deadly peril? We need only to recall those days when, in her infancy, the Church was confronted by the powers of earth and darkness in their greatest might and hate. It comes to our notice, in this lesson, as one of the three mountains of difficulty encountered by Jesus and His followers — Roman force, Greek philosophy, and Jewish ecclesiasticism. The three were to be vanquished, and all by love's compulsion; but, of the three, the last was not the least formidable. The momentum of ages was behind it. But Paul, like his Master, proposed the most difficult of achievements — a reform that was an apparent destruction — a new life perpetuating all that was true and good in the old life — fulfilling, indeed, instead of destroying, but causing so much of abandonment of time-honoured ritual and rich perquisites as to seem like an overwhelming deluge. To human view, how impregnable the entrenchments of Judaism! The unseen was mightier than the seen, however imposing the latter. Let church builders and soul winners take courage today. Difficulties do not cease. They take new form and enlist a strong following; but Christ's cause now has a momentum of conquest sweeping through long ages; it has readjusted life's economy so that worldlings unwittingly give it aid and comfort from general impulses of benevolence and enlightenment; it has so helped governments and science and inventions that they return valuable service from dictates of expediency.
(S. Lewis B. Speare.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
This is the man that...brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place
S. S. Times.When Professor Vambery came to Meshed, in the course of his Asiatic journeyings, he met, in the street, a Jew whom he had known at Bokhara. To his astonishment the Jew passed him without recognising him. Vambery called out to him; whereupon, says Vambery, "he hurriedly came up to me, and said confidentially, in a low voice, 'For God's sake, Haji, do not call me a Jew here. Beyond these walls I belong to my nation, but here I must play the Moslem.'" This Jew's fear of persecution well illustrates the Oriental feeling towards those of other faiths. The presence of an unbeliever pollutes the very city whither he comes; much more so the holy place into which he might enter. It is not so very long ago that the discovery of a European in any Mohammedan mosque would have been the signal for his murder; and there are still holy places which Europeans can only visit at the risk of their lives. Vambery, disguised as an Oriental, visited several of these sacred places in Central Asia; but he saved his life only by the boldness with which he denied that he was a Frank, and by the show of indignation with which he denounced those who would call a true believer an infidel. Burton's journey to Mekkeh was accomplished at the risk of his life; and, afterwards, when Mr. Cole, the British vice-consul at Jeddah, made a joking reference there to Button's exploit, he found that the Mohammedans were so enraged over it, that any further allusion to it would be dangerous.
(S. S. Times.)
(H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)
And all the city was moved.
(Sir Walter Raleigh.)
Scientific Illustrations.By universal consent religion is man's greatest blessing; and water is the greatest boon of the thirsty all the world over. Yet what a confirmation both religion and water afford of the fact that the greatest good may occasion the greatest evil! Take, first of all, the illustration supplied by the water, and in the words of Oliver Goldsmith. In those burning countries where the sun dries up every brook for hundreds of miles round, when what had the appearance of a great river in the rainy season becomes, in the summer, one dreary bed of sand, a lake that is never dry, or a brook that is perennial, is considered by every animal as the greatest convenience of Nature. As to food, the luxuriant landscape supplies that in sufficient abundance; it is the want of water that all animals endeavour to remove, and inwardly parched by the heat of the climate, traverse whole deserts to find out a spring. When they have discovered this, no dangers can deter them from attempting to slake their thirst. Thus the neighbourhood of a rivulet in the heart of the tropical continents is generally the place where all the hostile tribes of Nature draw up for the engagement. On the banks of this little envied spot thousands of animals of various kinds are seen venturing to quench their thirst, or preparing to seize their prey. The elephants are perceived in a long line, marching from the darker parts of the forest; the buffaloes are there, depending on numbers for security; the gazelles, relying solely upon their swiftness; the lion and tiger, waiting a proper opportunity to seize; but chiefly the larger serpents are upon guard there, and defend the accesses of the lake. Not an hour passes without some dreadful combat; but the serpent, defended by its scales, and naturally capable of sustaining a multitude of wounds, is of all others the most formidable. Ever on the watch until their rapacity is satisfied, few other animals will venture to approach their station. Now take the illustration which religion supplies of the fact that the greatest good may occasion the greatest evil. The splendid anthem of Spohr only tells us, in beautiful music, the fact which history in unmusical language proclaims — that as the hart pants after the water, so all souls seek after God. Here, then, is admitted to be the great source of all good. How have men approached that source? Do you find peace, love, charity, and all happiness characterising their proceedings? Look at the religions of the world, with their cruelties and barbarisms; listen to the brayings of cant and the howlings and ravings of sectaries and bigots; and notice the insidious craft and poisonous malice with which some of the smooth zealots do their work! Behold how fiercely they fight among one another; how eagerly they pounce upon any who are not of their number, but whom they descry afar off, eagerly seeking after the source of All-purity; and how desperately they struggle, each with each, for the mastery and capture of the anxious, humble seekers of living water! What brings all these rampant men together, and occasions this hoarse clamour of coarse voices where we anticipated gentle forms and loving sounds? The banks of the river of life have brought them there, and by their presence they occasion the greatest evil where we have a right to expect the greatest good.
Some cried one thing and some another.1. It is an intolerant spirit (vers. 27, 28). These "Jews of Asia" had refused to give careful, candid thought to Paul's teachings, but judged them by their own narrow standards.
2. It is a perverting spirit (vers. 28, 29). "They had seen...and they supposed." These Jews deftly mingled facts with falsehoods, and cast false lights on true statements.
3. It is often a spirit of formalism (ver. 30). They were a company of worshippers in the rites of service, yet they were ready to murder an unoffending man.
4. It is a spirit of cruelty (ver. 31). "They went about to kill him."
5. It is an ignorant spirit (ver. 34). They could not tell why the tumult had arisen, nor what was the crime charged upon the victim. Such is the blind, unreasoning hatred in the heart of persecutors.Notice in contrast with these Jews the traits of the Christian under persecution.
1. While they were law breaking he was law abiding. He was obeying the very laws and conforming to the very usages which they accused him of violating, at the very moment while they were seeking his life.
2. While they were furious he was calm. His perfect faith gave him perfect peace.
3. While they were cowardly he was courageous. He was brave, for only a man with a heart like a lion would have thought to address the crowd clamouring for his blood.
4. While they were full of hate he was full of love.
(J. L. Hurlbut, D. D.)
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