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of the public peace; after which they dismissed them. Paul and Silas had not been found by the mob, and the christians would not allow them to expose themselves to danger from their violence; but constrained them to leave the city in the night time, taking the road to a place not far off, called Berea.
From the circumstances recorded in this portion, the missionaries could have remained at Thessalonica very little more than three weeks or a month. During that time, though the success of the gospel was very great, yet they determined not to be burthensome for their support upon the new converts; and in order to avoid this Paul supported himself by labouring with his own hands, probably at the occupation of tentmaking, (as he afterwards did at Corinth, Acts xviii. 3). He refers to this in both the letters which he afterwards wrote to the church in Thessalonica. (1 Thess. ii. 9. 2 Thess. iii. 8.) It might seem perhaps, that the expence of their living could have been but a small burthen; but we learn from history, that during this very year there was a great scarcity, almost amounting to a famine, all over that part of the Roman empire in which Paul was travelling; so much so, that the price of corn rose to six times as much as in an ordinary season. This not only tends to explain the apostle's anxiety not to cause any additional expence, both to the christians in Thessalonica, and afterwards at Corinth in this same year; but it also accounts for the promptness of the newlyplanted church at Philippi in sending supplies of money after their beloved Paul, to secure him from the want he was so likely to have felt. Twice during the course of the few weeks the apostle remained at Thessalonica, the christians at Philippi thus ministered to his necessities. He mentions this with thankful approbation in the letter he afterwards wrote to the Philippians. (Phil. iv. 15, 16.) To this service of love they were no doubt the rather moved by the presence of Paul's dear friend Luke (whom he calls the beloved physician, Col. iv. 14), who had been left at Philippi; which also perhaps induced the apostle to make a distinction in favour of the church there, and to accept from them the assistance which he refused to receive from others.
How often do I read the Scriptures, and for what purpose? Is it to satisfy my conscience that I have done an act of duty? or is it to ascertain the truth, and to learn better how to apply it?
Thou gracious God, who madest all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor wouldest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live, have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Hereticks; take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word. Raise up true ministers of thy gospel diligently to open to them the word of life; vouchsafe to me a share in the honour of supporting those missionaries in their work; and give me a spirit of prayer on their behalf. Thou hast blessed me with the means of grace and the hope of glory; thou hast made known to me the blessed doctrines of salvation by Christ Jesus; give me wisdom that I may prove all things that I hear, and that I may hold fast that which is good. Teach me out of thy holy word; and grant that I may search therein daily, in order to find it testify of Christ; and from all hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word and commandments, good Lord, deliver me.
May God, for the sake of Jesus Christ, give me the Holy Spirit, that I may understand this portion of His Holy Word, and profit by it.
ACTs, chap. XVII. verses 16 to 34. 1 THESS. chap. III. verses 1 to 5.
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry [or, full of idols.] 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. 18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, "What will this babbler [or, base fellow] say?" other some, "He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods:" 19 because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they
took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, [or, Mars' hill. It was 20 the highest court in Athens,] saying, "May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? 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.)
Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, [or, the court of the Areopagites,] and said, " Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things 23 ye are too superstitious. For as passed by, and beheld your devotions, [or, gods that ye worship,] I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him 24 declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples 25 made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all 26 things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, 27 and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from 28 every one of us for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, ' For we are also his offspring.' 29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think
that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but 30 now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath ap- 31 pointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance [or, offered faith,] unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the
And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: 32 and others said, "We will hear thee again of this matter." So Paul 33 departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and 34 believed among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
1 THESS. III. 1—5.
Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; and sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister 2 of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:
That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves 3 know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with 4 you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. For this cause, when I could no longer 5 forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.
Paul remained at Athens in expectation of the arrival of Silas and Timothy, whom he had desired to follow him from Berea. The city of Athens was the most splendid in all Greece, and the centre of all the learning at that time known in Europe, or perhaps in the world; so that it was considered necessary to a superior education, that it should be completed at Athens. It was the fashion of the day for the more intelligent portion of the Pagan idolaters, to adopt some one or other of the systems of what was called Philosophy. These were different schemes imagined by men, in order to account for the hidden things of the Godhead, and the state of the world in general. Many of these systems of philosophy were taught about the time when Paul was in Greece; two of the principal of which were that of the Epicureans, and that of the Stoics. The Epicurean philosophy was in some respects like the doctrine of the Sadducees amongst the Jews-they thought
that every thing came by chance, and that there was no future state of the soul after death-and that present pleasure was the only object of life. The Stoics held very different opinions, but equally removed from truth. While they believed that there were spiritual beings and a future existence, they considered every thing to be unchangeably fixed by fate; and what they looked upon as virtue, they held to be the extreme amount of happiness in itself. The opinions of the philosophers did not in the least interfere with the idolatrous habits of the people: to whatever sect each person might belong, he still worshipped the heathen gods, whose temples abounded more especially at Athens; every idol had some place of worship in this city, where temples were even built to nameless gods.
As the apostle walked through this celebrated city, the idolatry every where prevailing strongly moved the spirit within him, so that he could not repress his feelings. He frequented the Jewish synagogues in the first place, where he entered into discussions with Jews, and the proselytes whom he met there; but having thus acted upon the original arrangement for the preaching of the gospel first to the Jews (see page 177), he also followed the custom of the Athenians, and entered freely into conversation upon the great subject of religion with whomsoever he found ready to discuss in the market, which was the place of common resort. As he continued to do this day by day, he attracted the attention of some of the philosophers, teachers of the doctrines of the Epicureans and of the Stoics. They however looked with contempt upon Paul, saying, "let us hear what this chatterbox says;" while some took him to be a proposer of new idols for worship, because he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ, which was strongly opposed to the system of the Stoics; and because he told them of the resurrection of the dead, which was directly contrary to the doctrine of the Epicureans.
As Paul's preaching thus became famous at Athens, these philosophers took him to the place called Mars' Hill, where the highest court of justice in Athens was held. It does not appear that he was brought before the judges of