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unto God:" to turn it from "wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness,"3 sensuality, cruelty—to righteousness, and peace, and gentleness, and temperance, and charity. So the words of the prophet might be accomplished, (Isa. xi. 6,) "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid: and the calf and the young lion and the fading together; and a little child shall lead them."
In another respect, these enemies of truth misrepresented the doctrine of the apostles. They accused them of doing contrary to the decrees of Ccesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.
This, too, was no new accusation. But when it was alleged against the Lord himself, and Pilate asked him, "Art thou a king then?" he replied, "My kingdom is not of this world."4 He was indeed a king. And the apostles would affirm that he was a king: a king who '' must reign till he had put all enemies under his feet." But his kingdom was not of this world; neither would his servants fight that they might establish his throne, with any of those arms by which earthly kingdoms are gained or defended. Their object was not to destroy men's lives, but to save them. No earthly monarch need fear him as a rival; but all ought to court him as their best ally, their surest defender: for his laws are, "Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou 3 See Rom. i. 29. * John xviii. 36.
then not be afraid of this power 1 Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. Render, therefore, to all their due: tribute to whom tribute is due: custom to whom custom: fear to whom fear: honour to whom honour." 5
Such was the king, whom his subjects were accused of setting up in defiance of Caesar. But in these tumults where a people of the baser sort are excited and brought together, there is little question of truth or falsehood: the accused are seldom heard, and if they were, the accusers, and perhaps even their judges, are often incapable of understanding truth or reason. St. Paul alludes to this, when, speaking of the characters by which he had been opposed, he prays to be "delivered from unreasonable and wicked men." 6
Here, however, the rulers of the city, when they heard these things, acted far better than the magistrates at Philippi.
9. And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.
10. And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea :i who coming thither, went into the synagogue of the Jews.
11. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
12. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.
5 Rom. xiii. 1—7. 6 1 Thess. iii. 2.
i Another large city of Macedonia, southward of Thessalonica.
Thus the apostles were driven from Thessalonica, and carried the blessings of which they were the bearers to a better climate and a kindlier soil—to those who received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, that they might find it explained there and confirmed. Even at Thessalonica, though forced to quit it hastily, their visit had not been barren or unprofitable. There was a seed planted which should "take root downward and bear fruit upward:" there were plants which the dew of heaven should water, and over which the providence of God should watch, and which should bring forth " first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear."8 At first there was the blade, when they " received the word in much affliction;" still they received it " not as the word of man, but as it is in truth, the word of God."9 Two years afterwards, the blade had reached the ear; and Paul could speak with delight of "the work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope,"1 which flourished among the Thessalonian Christians. So "effectually had the word wrought in them:" so manifestly proved itself to be "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."1
Yet all the blessing which springs from such a life, and all the still more inestimable blessing which belongs to it hereafter, would the unbelieving Jews have denied to this people, forbidding the
8 Matt. iv. 88. 9 1 Thess. i. 6; ii. 13.
1 1 Thess. i. 3.
apostles " to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved."2
Truly, those who in any way hinder the progress of religion, whether outwardly in the world, or inwardly in the soul, deserve the reproach which the apostle casts upon them, speaking of his opponents at Thessalonica: "They please not God, and are contrary to men."3
PAUL'S CONDUCT AT ATHENS—A. D. 53.
Acts xvii. 13—17.
13. But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.
14. And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul, to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still.
15. And they that conducted Paul, brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed.
Such was the first impression on Paul's mind, that he could not dispense with the presence of 2 Thess. ii. 16. 3 Thess. ii. 15.
Silas and Timotheus to assist him in his labours. But when they afterwards arrived, a stronger feeling prevailed; a feeling of interest for the Thessalonians whom he had left receiving the word with "readiness of mind," but "in much affliction." He would gladly have returned to them himself; but when this was impossible, he chose " to be left at Athens alone," and could not forbear to send back to them Timotheus, "to establish them, and comfort them concerning their faith," "that no man should be moved by these afflictions." For "now we live," he says, " if ye stand fast in the Lord.'"
So close are the ties which the gospel binds around the heart, so affectionately it unites together those who bestow and those who receive the blessing.
16. Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.
17. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.
Here the mind of the apostle is disclosed to us, and in the most interesting manner, because, as it were, incidentally. The narrative leads us to suppose that he had not intended to preach the gospel at Athens, but to proceed onward as soon as his companions joined him. What he saw around him changed his purpose. His spirit was stirred 1 See 1 Thess. ii. 18; iii. 1—8.