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The first town of note, to which they came, was Philippi ; and, during their continuance there, some occurrences happened, which demand particular attention. The facred historian minutely records the conversion of an individual, which proved the beginning of a large and profperous church. On the lab- . bath day they took the opportunity of addressing certain women, affembled together in a place fet apart for prayer. Many, it should seem, were present, but we read only of one person, named Lydia, who received real advantage. She listened to the word with eagerness : but this favourable disposition is accounted, for; “the Lord opened her heart.” Immediately she felt the efficacy of the Gospel, both she and her family were baptized, and her house was opened for the accommodation of thofe, who had brought her the glad tidings of salvation. Ah! why is it, that others refuse even an attentive hearing? Because ignorance, prejudice, pride, and sensuality, render us all averse to such subjects. Our minds are, as it were; closed against the truth of God, and resist its admiffion. O let us pray, that the Lord would remove; the obstruction, and open our hearts! Thus only will the doctrine of Christ find a ready entrance, and make a lasting impression.

How various are the methods of grace ! Lydia, probably, was wrought upon in a gentle manner; without any strong terrors or violent emotions. But we proceed to contider another conversion, of a different fort, and one in which the hand of God was more visibly exerted. Some fingular circumstances, which preceded, were evidently ordered by the divine provie , dence with a view to this event..

A certain damfel at Philippi under a demoniacal poffeffion, pretending to a power of divination, bore a public and repeated testimony to St. Paul and his affociates, as the servants of the most high God, and teachers of the only way of salvation. It might seem



from such an attestation, that she was in league with the preachers of the Gospel, and that they were all impostors of the same kind, equally deserving of neglect and contempt. That there might be no ground, however, for the fufpicion, the Apoft!c commanded the evil spirit to depart. The dansel was a slave, and her owners had reaped l:arge pecuniary advantages from her magical art. They now found, that their gain was at an end, and with great indignation dragged Paul and Silas before the magistrates of the city, accusing them of fedition. Thus it frequently happens, that interested persons, whose dishonest profits are likely to suffer, bitterly inveigh against the zealous preachers and, profeffors of our holy religion, and charge upon them that very disturbance, of which they themselves are the authors. By slanderous reproaches and malicious, calumnies Satan and his agents may so far prevail, as to bring the faithful servants of God into temporary danger and distress.

The populace rose up with fury against these ambassadors of Chrift: the officers themselves treated. them most injuriously, condemned them without any fair examination, tore off their clothes, caused them to be scourged with many stripes, cast them into prison, and left them in the hands of an auftere and inhuman jailer: he, too, as if he were glad of his çommision, thrust them into one of the closest cells, and fecured their feet in the stocks, Yet this situation was not distresiing to them, as we might have concluded. The darkness and horrors of the dungeon could not exclude the light of God's countenance : though their wounded bodies suffered sharp anguilh, divine consolations flowed in upon their minds.

At midnight they were heard to pray aloud and to sing hymns of praise. Their case, then, may encourage us to "commit the keeping of our souls to God in well-doing," whatever dangers may threaten « In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence :



and his children shall have a place of refuge *.” They possess a never-failing source of peace and joy, of which they cannot be deprived by stripes, chains, and tortures.

It soon appeared, that this painful dispensation was appointed to accomplish the most gracious designs. The Lord interposed for the vindication and deliverance of his oppressed servants.

While they were engaged in exercises of devotion, the earth trembled, the prison was fhaken to its foundation, the doors thrown open, and all the fetters of the prisoners inftantly broken. In this awful scene, our attention is chiefly directed to the jailer. Alarmed and terrified, under an apprehension that all the persons committed to him had escaped, he was about to dispatch himself with his own sword. But, when Paul had happily diverted him from his purpose, the ftout-hearted finner, overwhelmed with fear and confternation, fell down at the feet of the very men, whom he had so lately treated with insult and cruelty, and cried out in deep concern for his soul, “ Sirs, what must I do to be faved ?” Astonishing change indeed, accomplished by no less a power, than that which produced the miraculous convulsion of the earth!

Paul and Silas could not but listen to his words with peculiar delight. They were ready to instruct the enquiring penitent; and, forgetting their own Stripes, were most eager to heal his wounded confcience. Immediately they preached Christ to him and his family, assuring them that on their believing they should obtain salvation.

The effect was wonderful. The jailer was converted, and, while by faith

. he committed himself to Jesus, divine peace and joy sprung up in his heart. How different, also, his outward behaviour, as well as his inward affections ! He brought out. Paul and Silas from their confinement.

* Prov. xiv. 26.


washed their lacerated bodies, and gave them food for their refreshment: both he and his domeftics were baptized, and, probably, his house became a church for God. Thus the violent opposition eventually promoted « the furtherance of the Gospel.” O why Thould you fear, if you are engaged in the cause of God and his truth? But if you are fighting against Him, you cannot possibly prevail, however strong may be your party, or profound your schemes.

In the morning, the magistrates, probably terrified by the earthquake, ordered the prisoners to be disa mified. But Paul, with the confidence of an upright man, remonstrated against the injurious treatment they had received, observing that as Roman citizens they were entitled to peculiar privileges, and might demand fatisfaction. After this bold representation, they obtained a proper concession from the officers, and an honourable discharge. They did not rigorously inlift on their rights, but shewed that they were men of peace; for, as soon as they had vilited and comforted the brethren, they quitted the town, left any further tumults might be excited. --Such was the first plant. ing of the church at Philippi, of which the most favourable testimony is given in the facred records ; and from such small beginnings, under the blessing of our God, works of extensive usefulness often take their rise.

Not discouraged by the violence they had met with, our Apostle and his affociates pressed on to other services. Having passed through some considerable cities in Macedonia, they came to Thesalonica, which was a place of peculiar note *. There also, according to his custom, St. Paul resorted to the fyn:gogue of the Jews, addrelied his countrymen on the grand topics of the Gospel, and proved from their own {criptures, that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah.

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Nor did he speak in vain : many believed his report, and joined his company. But others foon discovered a different spirit. The Jews, who rejected his word, raised a violent and furious opposition: they collected certain low and profligate fellows, and threw the whole town into commotion. The bouse,.where Paul lodged, was assaulted; and, though he escaped, Jason his host and fome of the brethren were dragged before the magistrates, and accused as persons difaffected to the government, and as general disturbers of the peace, who “had turned the world upside down.” The prosecution, indeed, was dropped, but it became necessary for Paul and Silas to fly from the place under cover of the night.

It may be asked, Is this the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ, which is every where ipoken against, which causes divisions and animofities in families, towns, and neighbourhoods ? Can that system, which breathes nothing but benevolence, and is calculated to promote universal happiness, be liable to such objections, and produce such consequences? Yes, these are the very calumnies, these the effects, which we are taught will usually attend the faithful declaration of the Gospel : but they are to be ascribed to the perverseness of its opposers, and not to the nature or tendency of its principles. We ought not, therefore, to be ftag. gered in our belief or profession of the truth. Shail the ininifters of Christ dread the resentment of the world? There is a way to avoid it: there is a method of preaching, which gives no difturbance. Is this the scheme you would recommend? Would you have them accommodate their message to men's vitiated taite, and say, “ Peace, peace, when there is no peace ?" Then, indeed, there might be no persecution; but the prospect hereafter would be tremendous : the deceived and the deceiver would perish together *

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