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in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Thoughts like these must have passed in his mind. Here are immortal beings, beings formed for an everlasting existence, who are so living in this present world, that their future state must be a state of misery. Here are those, who "professing themselves to be wise," are really in the deepest ignorance. They are strangers to the true God— strangers to his laws, and careless of his will. They are strangers to their own destiny; thinking themselves in life, they are in the midst of death: not knowing the sinfulness of sin, not knowing the consequences of an ungodly, unholy, unrighteous course, when "we must all appear before the judgment-seat of God to give account of the things done in the body."
But to me, who am called to be an apostle, and "separated unto the gospel of God," to me is entrusted the word of life and ministry of reconciliation. Shall I remain silent while these perish? Shall I not make known the riches of God's mercy, that " whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved?" Shall I not warn them that they "turn from these vanities to serve the living God?" Shall I not proclaim the covenant of grace, how "God having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless them, in turning away every one from his iniquities?"
Thus would the apostle muse, and thus would "the fire kindle within him," till at last he pursued his usual course at Athens as elsewhere, and disputed in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the dersout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.
We see, then, that the apostle was affected by none of those considerations, which often have restrained the efforts which might be made for the spiritual instruction of heathen idolaters. He thought it no sufficient excuse, for instance, that he had not been specially sent to Athens, and that his purpose was elsewhere. Like his divine Master, he must always " be about his Father's business"—he must always have his will in view— always endeavour to promote his glory. Neither did he deem it a reason for leaving these idolaters in ignorance, that they had been bred up in ignorance: that the "vain conversation" in which they were living had been received " by tradition from their fathers." Though well aware that they had to do with a God all-wise and all-merciful, who, while he saw their errors, knew also their temptations; yet he did not think this a reason for permitting them to continue in a state in which they were practically alienated from their Creator and their Judge. No such thoughts restrained him. He had the express "revelation of the righteous judgment of God," that he will "render to every man according to his deeds:" " to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile."2 This was enough to satisfy him as to his duty. Whilst he knew that the Judge of all the earth would do right, he also knew that he would do according to his revealed word. He "believed God," that it
2 See Rom. ii. G—10.
will be as he has declared. And one thing especially would actuate the apostle. He had the words of eternal life. He was entrusted with the message of mercy. He knew what was " acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."3 Who then could tell, but that through his warnings, his labours, his instructions, these heathen might " be converted and live," and the object of Christ's death be accomplished in their salvation?
17. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews and with the deuout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.
And his example teaches us to " go and do likewise;" and not to leave others in their sin and ignorance, on the plea that God is merciful, or that it is not our particular calling to instruct them. God is merciful. And he shows this, by making his people instruments of his mercy. We are naturally inclined to pursue the path of ease, and leave matters to their course. To interfere, and attempt to change that course, requires exertion. But so does all duty, and must not for that reason be set aside. Every one should examine, with respect to the moral state of his fellow-creatures, in what degree it may depend upon himself; upon his silence, his neglect, or his influence and assistance. He must not be satisfied with what they are. He must inquire what he can make them.
1 Tim. ii. 4.
Whether we look to the heathen world abroad, or whether we look to the multitudes at home who yet remain in ignorance and sin,—it is not enough for us to argue, They are what God, who created them, sees fit they should be; we must also reflect, whether we could not have altered their condition; could not have imparted to them that knowledge, for lack of which men perish.4 Are we no way accountable for their moral state? May it not be the will of God to make us the means by which he may show towards them his mercy? Can we not awaken their carelessness, or enlighten their ignorance 1
Let all, as they pass through the world, bear this in mind. It may give them comfortable reflections when their earthly journey draws towards its close. They will not have been "barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."5 They will not have "hidden in the earth the talent " which was put into their hands."6 An apostle has left it written for our encouragement: "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him, let him know, that he which converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins."7
4 See Hosea iv. 6. 3 2 Peter i. 8.
6 Matt. xxv. 24. 7 James v. 19.
PAUL'S DISCOURSE AT ATHENS A. D. 54
Acts xvii. 18 — 31.
18. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans and of the Stoics, encountered him.1 And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection.
19. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus,3 saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?
20. For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.
21. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)
The character of the people at Athens struck the sacred writer as unlike that to which he was accustomed in his own country. There was not the same activity in commerce and ordinary business. Still less was there the same certainty as to the great questions in which mankind are most con
1 Two sects among the ancient philosophers. The Epicureans, so called from their leader, Epicurus; the Stoics, so called from the place in which■ they once used to assemble.
3 Or the hill of Mars, the ancient god of war; as in verse 22. It was the principal court of judicature in Athens.