« PreviousContinue »
benevolent wish, with which he concluded his oration. We understand from the private discourse between Agrippa, Festus, and Bernice, that they thought him unjustly persecuted.
St. Paul's question to Agrippa, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?" was a very sensible one, and worthy of our serious consideration. The Almighty Being who created all things from nothing, is undoubtedly able to raise the dead to life; and he has given us many images of a resurrection in the vegetable world, and among the insect tribes : but as the great and indisputable proof, he has raised CHRIST from the dead in our nature. then apply to ourselves the Apostle's benevolent wish to king Agrippa, and by embracing in its full extent the doctrine he preached, and endeavouring like him to follow our blessed Lord's example, become altogether such a Christian as he was, consistent, sincere, and sted. fast.
Paul and his associates, viz. Luke, Aristarchus, Trophimnus, and some others, were delivered to the care of Julius a centurion, who with his band of soldiers embarked with them on board a ship.
They had a voyage of the utmost danger through stormy and dark weather, which Paul by a divine im., pulse forewarned them of; but the owner of the ship, thinking that he should be able to make an harbour on the coast of Crete, prevailed on Julius to consent to his, pursuing the voyage. In a short time after a violent wind arose, a' dreadful darkness ensued, which conti. nued for several days, so that they knew not how to steer; for they could see neither the sun by day nor the stars by night, and were obliged to lighten the ship to prevent her sinking. They, first threw the merchants goods overboard, then the tackle of the ship; but not.
withstanding all their efforts, the ship struck upon the sands in a very dangerous place, and was immediately broken to pieces. In this conjuncture, the soldiers made a barbarous proposal to kill the prisoners, lest they should escape ; but Julius, who was a very humane man, and had a great esteem for Paul, prevented their putting it in execution, and commanded that those who could swim should cast themselves into the sea, and endeavour to get to land : they did so, and every man on board, being two hundred and seventy-six, ei. ther by swimming, or on plarks or pieces of the wreck, got safe on shore; as Paul had before assured them it was revealed to him by an Angel they would do, if the sailors staid in the ship, and exerted their best endeavours to save her, and trusted to divine providence, instead of taking to the boat, as some of them were going to do.
The name of the island on which they were cast was Melita, now called Malta. It was at that time subject to the Romans, but inhabited by Carthaginians, who seeing these poor wretches ready to perish with cold, treated them with great hospitality, making good fires to dry them, and using every method to comfort and refresh them.
A remarkable circumstance happened to Paul in this place. He had taken up a bundle of sticks and cast it into the fire, when a viper dislodged by the heat came out of the wood, and fastened on his hand. The islanders seeing this, and knowing that he was a prisoner, concluded, that he was certainly a murderer, who, though he had escaped the dangers of the sea, could not avoid divine justice ; but to their astonishment, they beheld him with the utmost composure shake the reptile into the fire, according to the promise of our Lord, that
those who believed in him should take up serpents*. The people observed him attentively for some time, ex. peçting that the venom would soon operate, and that he would swell violently, and drop down dead; but when they saw he remained unhurt, they changed their opinion, and took him for a deity. So fickle is the opi, nion of those who form their notions of things from the light of reason only, unguided by Divine revelation !
Publius, a Roman nobleman, who was governor of the place, hearing that a shipwreck had happened, in. vited the distressed strangers to his house, where they were courteously entertained for three days; at which time the father of Publius was seized with a dangerous illness, from which he was miraculously recovered by the hands of Paul. The news of this miracle spread abroad, and occasioned many who were afficted with diseases to apply to the Apostle, who cured them, and he was in return highly honoured and respected by them. At the end of three months, Paul and his com. pany embarked on board another ship, and shortly af. ter landed at Naples; where meeting with some disci. ples, they staid a week, and then set off for Rome by land. The Christians at Rome hearing he was coming, went out to meet him. At the sight of them Paul greatly rejoiced, and returned thanks to God, being encouraged from this circumstance to hope, that these friends would be comforters to him in his confinea ment. When arrived at Rome, Julius delivered his prisoners into the hands of the captain of the Empe. ror's guards, who being of an amiable disposition, treated Paul with all possible iudulgence, and allowed him to live in a hired house or lodgings, with one soldier only to guard him.
* See Sect. Ia VOL. VI.
Having taken three days to recover the fatigue of his journey, he called together the chief of the Jews who resided at Rome, and informed them of the cause of his imprisonment, and of the necessity he was reduced to of appealing unto Cæsar to prevent assassination ; not fhe said) that he had any accusation to bring against his countrymen, but he had called them together to inform them, that it was for the cause of the MESSIAX, the hope and expectation of Israel, that he now suffered imprisonment.
The Jews replied, that they knew nothing to his pre. judice, but had heard the sect of the Christians greatly censured, and should be glad to have an account of their doctrine from him ; he therefore appointed a day for them to attend him, at which time he explained the chief principles of the Christian faith, in a conference which lasted from morning to night; by which some of his auditors were converted, but others obstinately adhered to their former opinions : and so disagreeing, they broke up the assembly. Paul, as they departed, very properly ayplied to them Isaiah's (prophecy, hearing they shall bear and not understand *, &c, and assured them that the salvation they rejected 'was sent to the Gentiles, who would accept it, and inherit these bless. ings which the Jews despised. After this Paul dwelt two years in his house, where he received all who came to him, and converted many of the Romans and others to Christianity; among whom was Onesimus, in whose favour Paul wrote his Epistle to Philemon, and afterwards employed him to carry his letter to the Colossians.
The Christians at Philippi and Macedonia hearing
of his imprisonment, made a large collection for him, and sent it by their Bishop Epaphroditus, by whom he sent his Epistle to the Philippians,
Shortly after this, he had the comfort to hear, that the Christians at Ephesus continued in faith and charity as he left them; but fearing they might be perverted by false teachers, he wrote an Epistle to establish them in the doctrine which he taught them.
At this period of St. Paul's imprisonment, it is supposed St. Luke wrote his Gospel, which he composed with the Apostle's assistance.
DEATH OF PAUL AND THE
In the year of our Lord 63, as the learned compate, PAUL was restored to his liberty. Having converted many of the Romans, he travelled into other parts of the world ; and before he passed out of Italy, is supposed to have written his Epistle to the Hebrews,
Leaving Italy, Paul sailed westward, and, as we are assured by one of the first Christian writers, preached the Gospel in Spain ; and some learned authors say, that he planted a church in Great Britain ; and after travelling to several other parts, went to Ephesus. From thence he passed into Macedonia, and visited the Philippians. Here he staid a considerable time, and is thought, during this period, to have written his first Epistle to Timothy, and also that to Titus. After this, Paul tra velled again and went to Corinth, and afterwards went into Asia, and at length returned to Rome.' Nero