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at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should he despised, and her magnificence should he destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.
By this craft we have our wealth. So Demetrius argues: and therefore truth must be excluded, and therefore error must be maintained. He does not trouble himself to inquire whether it be indeed as Paul said, that they be no gods which be made with hands; the matter of imputation was, that this our craft is in danger to be set at nought, when men shall no longer value the great goddess Diana.
Such is too often the argument which perpetuates evil; and that not only among heathen idolaters. Wherever falsehood in doctrine or error in practice has long prevailed, there are many who have an interest in its continuance. The Pharisees and scribes, for example, had an interest in maintaining the Jewish law. By it they had their wealth: by it they had their reputation: were held in credit among the people. Unquestionably this would strengthen their opposition to the ministry of Jesus. So, long before, Jeremiah had complained, "The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so."4 All are concerned in maintaining what is wrong. The teachers and the hearers are linked together, by some practice which is gainful or some habit which is agreeable. Some procure popularity, and others obtain wealth, which would cease if this new doctrine be received.
Many may be still found who argue like Demetrius, and what took place at Ephesus may take place again. The minister who "teacheth the way of God in truth," may still often find a Demetrius to oppose him, and a people to join the outcry. If it be true that "the way is strait, the gate narrow which leadeth unto life," those who would follow it must be sober, be vigilant. If it be true that " the way of destruction is broad and many" enter it, then those practices which lead astray, those temptations which allure the young and thoughtless, those things that minister to the "lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life," instead of being sought and encouraged, must be avoided and laid aside. But by this craft men have their wealth: and a cry is raised like that at Ephesus, This Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people.
Such is human nature when opposed by the word of God. The current runs smoothly till a barrier is set up: then appears the violence of the stream .below. God, however, " sitteth above the waterflood ;" and not a wave can roll beyond the limit he allows. So it was seen on this occasion.
28. And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
29. And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius5 and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia,
5 The name of Gaius occurs again in the next chapter, ver. 4, and that of Aristarchus, as sailing to Rome with Paul, xxviii. 2. PauPs companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.
30. And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not.
31. And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.
32. Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not
wherefore they were come together.
33. And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people.6
34. But when they knew that he was a Jew,1 all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the EphesiansJ7
35. And when the townclerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not, how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter ?8
36. Seeing then these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly.
A Gaius is mentioned by Paul as his host at Rome, Rom. xvi. 23; and Aristarchus as his fellow-prisoner, Col. iv. 10.
6 Probably, as a Jew, to prevent his being confounded with the cause of Paul, by those who knew not wherefore they were come together, and could make no distinction between Jews and Christians.
7 The people of Ephesus knew the Jews as opposed to the idolatry they were now upholding, and were not aware that they were generally no less opposed to the doctrine of Paul.
8 Such was the vulgar belief concerning the statue of Diana in this temple.
37. For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor blasphemers of your goddess.
38. Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another.
39 But if ye inquire anything concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.
40. For we are in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse.
41. And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.
Such is the proper use of law. As St. Paul writes, (Rom. xiii. 3,) "Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good."
It was very different at Philippi. There the magistrates made themselves instruments of the violence and injustice of the mob. But here they take the apostle's part: whether from regard to his cause, or from a sense of right and duty, we know not; but LGod made use of their authority to protect his servant, and to strengthen the influence of the gospel at Ephesus.
Paul, meanwhile, had a support within, to which he trusted most, and which would not fail him even if the magistrate had failed. So he writes, looking back upon scenes like these, (2 Cor. iv. 8—12,) " We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live, are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh."9
The life of Jesus was manifested, when he furnisheu daily support to his servants. Men saw that he was living, was superintending his church, when the weakness of " mortal flesh" was strengthened; when afflictions and persecutions which would overwhelm all human power, seemed but more firmly to establish the gospel. The disciples sawthis,and believed. Every attack which threatened death to the disciples, increased that spiritual energy by which they might be enabled to resist temptation, and " hold fast the blessed hope" of everlasting glory.
9 2 Cor. iv. 8—12. "So then, death worketh in us, but life in you." See, to the same purpose, 2 Cor. i. 3—10.