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divinity of Jesus, who is able to accomplish such things, and that not only in one, two, or three, as philosophy may have done, or upon a few purposely selected; but in all sorts of persons, and all ages, chiefly most wicked, and illiterate, and untameable. Here we may say, this is not the finger of God, but his outstretched arm."
Fourthly and lastly, THE CLOSE OF HIS APOSTLESHIP AT CORINTH, AND HIS DEPARTURE TO ANOTHER PLACE. The Jews were exceedingly angry at his continuance there, and his success. Notwithstanding his extraordinary endowments as a man, the blamelessness of his life, the inoffensiveness of his conversation, his laborious endeavours to do good, the wonderful miracles which he wrought, and enabled others to perform, and the amazing success of his preaching in turning men from Satan unto God-notwithstanding all, I say, their rage was kindled against him the more; for envy follows merit, and malice always lurks in its rear. Their malice, though it had not broken out, had never slept, but only waited for an opportunity to shew itself; and that opportunity has come. The pro-consul from Rome, has come to reside at Corinth. His name was Gallio, the elder brother of Seneca, the celebrated friend and tutor of Nero, and a man who appears to have imbibed the most correct views of civil government. The Jews, availing themselves of his arrival, caused the Apostle Paul to be apprehended, and carried him before Gallio, charging him with having disturbed the unanimity of the city, and with preaching things contrary to their law; and they demanded his punishment. But Gallio was an upright judge, and too well understood the nature of his office to fall in with their humour. “If,” said he, “it were a matter of wrong; if this man had done any lawless act, or injured another, reason would, and justice would, that I should bear with you ; but if it be a question concerning matters of religion and opinion, I leave that to its proper tribunal, the tribunal of reason and argument, not to be meddled with by the civil powers.”
The Jews did the best thing men can do when they have nothing to say, they said nothing. They could not contravene the force with which he spoke: and the Greeks perceiving them foiled in their malice, laid hold of Sosthenes, the new ruler of the synagogue (who it is supposed had set them on), and beat him away from the judgment-seat. And when it was told the judge, he interfered not in the matter, but deeming it a religious dispute, left it to be settled by words or by the pen, instead of an appeal to the civil power.
But his conduct has been strangely misinterpreted on this occasion, by those who are led away by the sound of Scripture rather than with its sense. Because it is said “ Gallio cared for none of those things,” it has been supposed that he treated them with an indecent levity. He has been made the prototype of all wilful neglectors of the Gospel, and his name has been held up as the symbol of all sorts of careless and inconsiderate persons : whereas it means nothing more, than that he did not choose to interfere with the civil power in matters of religious polity. Would that all judges and magistrates that have succeeded him had acted upon the same enlightened views! To what have those persecutions which have filled the world with deeds of cruelty, and stained the annals of our race with blood—to what have they been owing, but to the ridiculous notion, that the civil power was to be employed in quelling religious controversy? Let us hope that the world has become more enlightened. Civil things to Cæsar; religious things to God. For my conduct as a citizen I am accountable to my fellow creatures: but, provided my actions are religious, and not, under pretence of being religious, subversive of the welfare of society, for my religious opinions I am accountable to none.
“ Let Cæsar's dues be ever paid
To Cæsar and his throne;
For God, and God alone.” The Apostle at Corinth was under a vow, and soon after he determined to take his departure, and again to visit the cities of Syria. He sailed, therefore, from the port of Corinth, the eastern port of Corinth, having shaved himself there because of his being under a vow. I think this vow refers to one he had taken after he had begun to preach to the Gentiles, that till he departed from them he would suffer his hair to grow, which was a celebrated thing among them: so that he became “a Gentile to the Gentiles.” But when the time of his residence amongst them expired, he was released from his vow; and as he was going he shaved himself that he might become as “a Jew to the Jews," that he might win some out of all people. And he went round by the church at Jerusalem. It is said in the chapter that he “ saluted the church"_" the church” by way of eminence" in that city, and preached at Antioch, in Syria,” where he concluded his second apostolical journey, thanking God in the midst of his brethren, and taking courage.
You may see, my brethren, from what has passed before you, the different effect of the preaching of the Gospel in different places: in one place it produces little or no effect, in the other it produces marvellous effects. Paul met with little opposition at Athens, and yet he produced no converts there, with the exception of two or three persons: he met with the greatest opposition at Corinth, and there he was surrounded with converts. How often is this the case in our own day, and in our own country! A minister shall be labouring at a place for some time with no result; but on removing to another he shall become an instrument of the greatest good. The same Gospel shall be introduced into two destitute villages equally unfavourably or favourably disposed towards it: in the one it is met with total indifference or decided opposition ; in the other it shall awaken attention, excite interest, and converts shall rise up on every side. You know these are effects ; how do you then account for them but by a divine power accompanying the promulgation of the truths of the Gospel, and regulating the effect, not according to the anticipations on the part of man, but according to the eternal purposes of God? “ I have much people in this city."
What is said of towns, and cities, and countries, applies to human hearts. Wherever the Gospel comes with power to the human heart, it is the effect of previous design. God intended it so to come; and you may see in confirmation of this remark, that there is hardly a converted person in the world, that does not trace divine providence, concurring with grace in effecting it, in the casting of his society, in the foundation of his connexions, in the books he was led to read, the sound of the ministry under which he was placed; all of which were conducted to his very door. All these things worketh that self-same Spirit, which is, I say, the agent, and whose influence, like the wind, “ bloweth where it listeth.” O blessed Spirit, if in these thy sovereign dispensations thou hast breathed in this, or in any other place, into our souls, and brought the Gospel to our hearts !
See, my brethren, the pain and the labour of the faithful minister of Christ. What pains did the Apostle take with the inhabitants of Corinth to form them into churches of Christ! What perils and persecutions did not endure on their account! Though he left them a flourishing church, and remarkably attached to him in person, how soon did they become corrupt! They allowed false teachers to come in among them: they separated into sections and parties, and they connived at the continuance of a member in their church who was an incestuous man, on account, perhaps, of his wealth or his reputation; yea, they tolerated a false prophet, a calumniator of the talents and gifts of Paul; and they broke down the hedge which separated them as a church from the world: they admitted to the Lord's table fornicators, and unbelievers, and adulterous persons; and they ate and drank to excess at the table of the Lord. That was their «
eating and drinking unworthily,” and “ to their own damnation," and nothing else than that, which cannot at all apply to persons in the present day. Against that it was which St. Paul warned them, in the sixth chapter of his second epistle, when he said, “ Be ye not unequally yoked together;" which does not apply to matrimony, as is generally supposed. Matrimonial connexions between believers and unbelievers is elsewhere expressly and explicitly forbidden, and almost uniformly occasions sin: but that applies to Christian communion, and is an exhortation to the Corinthians to a selection of communicants at the Lord's table; and any system which does not provide for that is not scriptural : “ Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers : for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols ? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." All who are anxious to have the approbation of Christ will attend to that exhortation. The Apostle threatened them that if they did not act thus he would come to them with his rod, and after that he besought them to spare him that necessity : and his exhortations, and warnings, and entreaties, had their effect; the church became reformed, recovered their attachment to him, and lived in Christian love. But what pains, what labours, I say, were manifested by the Apostle ; and such must be the pains and labours of every man that would make full proof of his ministry. It is not enough that he succeed in the conversion of souls, he must watch over them as one that must give an account, that he may do it with joy and not with grief: that they be not led away by passion, that they grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ; and he must be “ warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." O who is sufficient for these things? Who can always come forth with freshness and energy in the work, unless assisted from on high? Pray to God that we may be faithful ministers of Christ, always abounding in the work of the Lord.
Finally, the success of the Apostle's labours in Corinth was a specimen of the final triumph of the Gospel in clearing away idolatry from the earth. What could withstand the simple and faithful preaching of the truth by the Apostle Paul ? Every obstacle gave way: they came from the schools of philosophy to learn wisdom from his lips : they abandoned the altars and temples of their idols to become worshippers of Christ. they emerged out of the filth and ordure of their vices to become temples of the Holy Ghost; God was their Father, and they were the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty. I should be glad to know what obstacle could withstand the preaching of these truths. When once the Holy Spirit is poured out to accompany them with his divine energy, the world cannot resist its former conqueror. Do we not know from the sure sayings of our God, that the time will come when the proclamation of these truths shall recover the whole world from the pollution of superstition and idolatry? It is said in one of the Psalms, “ The ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the kingdoms of the nations shall worship before him.” Among the nations the time shall come, too, when there shall be an universal profession of Christianity on the earth, and the visible subjection of the whole world to Christ: not a forced subjection, but a voluntary one, the result of knowledge, and truth, and grace. “ They shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the kindreds of the earth shall worship before thee." Abundance of worship shall characterize the latter day. A Christian shall be able to go to no part of the world where there shall not be a place for the worship of God in Christ, and where he will not meet with fellow worshippers to join with him in service ; and worship shall be restored to its primitive purity. God is a Spirit, and must be worshipped in spirit and truth. In spirit as opposed to carnal conception, and in truth as figurative rites and ceremonies. Not that every individual of the human race, numerically speaking, will then be converted any more than in the first ages; for where on that principle would be the material of the future and final apostacy? But the cast majority in every part of the earth, in every sea-girt island, and in every spacious continent, will be on the side of Christ. There will be a visible subjection of the whole world to Jesus Christ. How long that period will literally continue perhaps it is impossible to say, since the glory and beauty of that church for one single year, may be as much as has been for a thousand years in former times. But while that period lasts earth will become a kind of heaven; the tabernacle of God will be with men, and he will dwell among them in the brightest displays of his truth, and holiness, and grace. The contentions of nations shall cease, the happiest interchanges of love and good feeling shall take place between all people of the earth, and the former causes of misery shall be so reduced as to seem to have ceased to exist : the Lord God will swallow up death in victory, and wipe away every tear from every eye.
But who shall live when God doth thus appear? We look to the millennium, but we always speak of it as at a great distance. For aught we know it is even now begun. There must be a period of preparation, and that will take some time. We are living in a period of active preparation of the world for the reception and acknowledgment of the claims of Christ: and when that preparation shall have gone on, and the means of grace be extended through the earth, how rapidly will the conversion of the nations come to pass. The images of prophecy seem to me to denote its rapidity. What else is the meaning
of the angel flying through the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach to all nations that dwell on the earth. What can it import but the multiplication of institutions of Christian missionaries to every part of the habitable world. And as to the growth of converts in those days, how is it represented ? “ They shall spring up as willows by the water courses, yea, they shall be like the drops of the morning dew formed in the space of a few hours, and crowning and bedecking every object in creation.” It is said that “ a nation shall be born in a day, and the swift-winged messengers shall not be able to carry fleet enough the tidings of the conversion of one nation after another.” We are living, I say, in times that are preparatory to this great change ; let us see that we are lending a hand to the blessed work : let us remember that one great means for preparing the world will be the cultivation of a spirit of peace and unity among Christians of all denominations. The church has been broken into parties; the mirror has been shivered into fragments: there must come a spirit of union ere there will come a spirit of blessing. Not that all sects are to merge into one ; not that there is to be a union of sects and parties as such, but a union of the righteous out of all sects and denominations. As it was said of philosophy, that was not philosophy which belonged to a sect, but that was philosophy which was true in every sect; so of Christianity, that is not Christianity that belongs to a sect, but that which is true and righteous in every sect. The denomination for the one church is not the aggregate of churches and of sects, but of the faithful.
“ O come the day when every sect shall fall,
And Christ the living head, be all in all !" Blessed Saviour, I see thee in my mind's eye, as thou wilt be recognized by the faithful in the world in that future day, I see thee in that glory which is thine by universal acknowledgment O come the day, when earth with her many tongues shall proclaim, “ Jesus Christ is Lord of all, to the glory of the Fatoer!”