And Paul, as his manner was, went in to them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,…
And Paul, as his manner was (Revised Version, "custom"). Luke thinks it necessary to record St. Paul's habits in connection with his missionary labors, and his point is, not that the apostle kept the sabbath day, but that he consistently observed the injunction to the first preachers that they should "begin at Jerusalem;" that is, deliver the gospel message first to the Jews. Whenever St. Paul went to a fresh town, "his manner was" to find out the Jews and join them at their meeting-place, whether that were proseucha or synagogue. In either case be would have the opportunity always offered to visitors to say a word of exhortation to the people. Here, at Thessalonica, the fact that St. Paul was allowed to preach for three sabbaths in succession shows the respect commanded by his character as a rabbi, and, it may be, by his earnest eloquence. We dwell on the fact that Luke recognizes a fixed custom and settled habit of the apostle, and seems to feel that anything so orderly and regular it was singular to find in so impulsive a man. A great part of religious duty concerns the formation and the preservation of godly habits, and the subject is one which may be practically and usefully treated in a Christian congregation.
I. SETTLED HABITS. It is singular that our most common association with the word "habit should be bad habits, and that a much stronger form of teaching should go in the direction of warning against or curing bad habits, than in that of culturing and nourishing good ones. Moralists have given abundant counsel in respect of common habits of personal and social life, but religious teachers, even of the young, have not worthily recognized that habits may be formed in connection with the religious life, and that direct instruction and guidance in relation to them is imperatively needed. Our Lord bad settled habits of prayer and worship, and no Christian life can be hopefully maintained without them.
II. How HABITS GET SETTLED. By simply doing things again and again with regularity. The philosophical and the practical explanations of the formation of habits may be given; and it may be well to show how the very muscles, nerves, and senses get fixed by continuing to act in the same direction. But the point to dwell on is that habits may be settled by intelligent intention and effort. They may be a product of will, and the formation of good habits is a proper exercise of the regenerate will. It may be further shown that relations of dependence bring on all parents, masters, or teachers, the responsibility of inciting to the formation of good habits and the due nourishment anti strengthening of them.
III. How FAR DOES THE SETTLING OF HABITS DEPEND ON DISPOSITION? In all questions of moral culture or religious duty the natural dispositions of men have to be taken into account. To some habits come easily, and they can be as easily changed. Others only form habits after much self-mastery and conflict. But these are the persons who are best helped by habits when once they get them fixed. Such an impulsive man as St. Paul might even find it necessary to restrain himself by forcing himself into the orderliness of settled habits. Illustrate how differently different persons stand related to the great Christian duties - prayer, reading God's Word, worship, almsgiving, etc.
IV. How MAY SETTLED HABITS HELP THE MAY WHO HAS FORMED THEM? Illustrate, especially in relation to the religious life, two points.
1. They help him to master his own varying feeling. A man is not always disposed for private prayer or public worship, but the habit keeps him related to these things, and it is often found that, while engaged in them, the needed mood of feeling will come. Custom only may take us to worship, but eye and heart may be opened when we are there.
2. They help him to overcome adverse circumstances. Hindrances of family or business life seriously affect the man who has no religious habits. They fail to hurt the man who has his life well ordered, and his regular times and ways. The habits soon get recognized, and the incidents of life take shape so as to fit in with them. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,