Page images
PDF
EPUB

strong emotions, and which they might be dis- VER. 32. In Damascus the governor under ! posed to set down as a weakness or infirmity.

Aretas the king kept the city of the DaThis might especially be the case among the

mascenes with a garrison, desirous to appreGreeks, where many philosophers, as the Stoics, were disposed to regard all sympathetic feeling,

hend me: and all sensitiveness to suffering, as an infirmity.

0 Acts ix. 24, 25. But Paul admitted that he was disposed to glory in this alone. He gloried that he had suffered At Damascus.—This circumstance is men- ' so much; that he had endured so many trials on tioned as an additional trial. It is evidentir account of Christianity, and that he had a mind | mentioned as an instance of peril which had es i that was capable of feeling for others, and of caped his recollection in the rapid account of his entering into their sorrows and trials. Well dangers enumerated in the previous verses. It might he do this, for there is no more lovely fea- | is designed to show what imminent danger he ture in the mind of a virtuous man, and there is was in, and how narrowly he escaped with his no more lovely influence of Christianity than life. On the situation of Damascus, see Note, this, that it teaches us to “bear a brother's woes," | Acts ix. 2. The transaction here referred to is also and to sympathize in all the sorrows and joys of related by Luke, (Acts ix, 24, 25,) though withothers. Philosophy and infidelity may be dis- out mentioning the name of the king, or refersocial, cheerless, cold; but it is not so with ring to the fact that the governor kept the city Christianity. Philosophy may snap asunder all without a garrison. The governor.-Greek, o the cords which bind us to the living world, but | Svápxns, "the ethnarch ;" properly a ruler of Christianity strengthens these cords ; cold and the people, a prefect, a ruler, a chief. Who he cheerless atheism and scepticism may teach us to was is unknown, though he was evidently some look with unconcern on a suffering world, but it officer under the king. It is not improbable is the glory of Christianity that it teaches us to that he was a Jew, or at any rate he was one wh feel an interest in the weal or woe of the obscur could be influenced by the Jews, and who was i est man that lives, to rejoice in his joy and to doubtless excited by the Jews to guard the city, weep in his sorrows.

and if possible to take Paul as a malefactor. Luke

informs us (Acts ix. 23, 24) that the Jews took VER, 31. The God. and Father of our Lord Je

counsel against Paul to kill him, and that they

watched the gates night and day to effect their sus Christ, which m is blessed for evermore,

object. They doubtless represented Paul as an knoweth " that I lie not.

apostate, and as aiming to overthrow their reli

gion. He had come with an important commis. | Gal. i. 3. m Rom. ix. 5. » 1 Thess. ii. 2. sion to Damascus, and had failed to execute it;

he had become the open friend of those whom he The God and Father, &c.- Paul was accus-came to destroy; and they doubtless claimed of tomed to make solemn appeals to God for the the civil authorities of Damascus that he should truth of what he said, especially when it was he given up, and taken to Jerusalem for trial. likely to be called in question. See ver. 10. It was not difficult, therefore, to secure the coComp. Rom. ix. 1. The solemn appeal which he operation of the governor of the city in the case, here makes to God is made in view of what he and there is no improbability in the statement. had just said of his sufferings, not of what fol- Under Aretas the king. There were three kings lows; for there was nothing in the occurrence of this name who are particularly mentioned by at Damascus that demanded so solemn an appeal ancient writers. The first is mentioned in 2 Viac. to God. The reason of this asseveration is pro- v. 8, as the “ king of the Arabians." He lived bably that the transactions to which he had re- about 170 years before Christ, and of course ferred were known to but few, and perhaps not could not be the one referred to here. The seall of them to even his best friends; that his trials | cond is mentioned in Josephus, Ant. b. xiii. ch. 1 and calamities had been so numerous and extra- | xv. § 2. He is first mentioned as having ruigned ordinary, that his enemies would say that they | in Celo-Syria, but as being called to the gowere improbable, and that all this had been the vernment of Damascus by those who dwelt there, mere fruit of exaggeration; and as he had no on account of the hatred which they bore to witnesses to appeal to for the truth of what he Ptolemy Meneus. Whiston remarks, in a note said, he makes a solemn appeal to the ever- on Josephus, that this was the first king of the blessed God. This appeal is made with great Arabians who took Damascus and reigned there, reverence. It is not rash or bold, and is by no and that this name afterwards became common means irreverent or profane. He appeals to God to such Arabian kings as reigned at Damascus as the Father of the Redeemer whom he so and at Petra. See Josephus, Ant. b. xvi. ch. ix. much venerated and loved, and as himself blessed $ 4. Of course this king reigned some time for evermore. If all appeals to God were made before the transaction here referred to by Paul. on as important occasions as this, and with the A third king of this name, says Rosenmüller, is same profound veneration and reverence, such the one mentioned here. He was the father-inappeals would never be improper, and we should law of Herod Antipas. He made war with his son. never be shocked, as we are often now, when / in-law Herod, because he had repudiated his men appeal to God. This passage proves that daughter, the wife of Herod. This he had done an appeal to God on great occasions is not im- | in order to marry his brother Philip's wife. ! proper; it proves also that it should be done See Note, Matt. xiv. 3. On this account Aretas with profound veneration,

made war with Herod, and in order to resist him,

Herod applied to Tiberius, the Roman emperor, he therefore waited for the passions of the Jews for aid. Vitellius was sent by Tiberius to subdue to have time to cool, before he ventured himself Aretas, and to bring him dead or alive to Rome. | again in their hands. But before Vitellius had embarked in the enterprise, Tiberius died, and thus Aretas was saved

REMARKS. from ruin. It is supposed that in this state of 1. There may be circumstances, but they are things, when thus waging war with Herod, he rare, in which it may be proper to speak of our made an incursion to Syria, and seized upon Da- own attainments, and of our own doings. (Ver. mascus, where he was reigning when Paul went | 1.) Boasting is in general nothing but follythere; or if not reigning there personally, he | the fruit of pride-but there may be situations had appointed an ethnarch or governor, who ad- / when to state what we have done may be necesministered the affairs of the city in his place. sary to the vindication of our own character, and Kept the city, &c.—Luke (Acts ix, 24) says that may tend to honour God. Then we should do they watched the gates day and night to kill it; not to trumpet forth our own fame, but to him. This was probably the Jews. Meantime glorify God and to advance his cause. Occasions the ethnarch guarded the city, to prevent his es- | occur, however, but rarely, in which it is proper cape. The Jews would have killed him at once; to speak in this manner of ourselves. the ethnarch wished to apprehend him and bring 2. The church should be pure. It is the bride him to trial. In either case Paul had much to of the Redeemer; the “ Lamb's wife.” (Ver. 2.) fear, and he, therefore, embraced the only way It is soon to be presented to Christ, soon to be adof escape. With a garrison.—The word which mitted to his presence. How holy should be that

is used here in the original, (opovpéw,) means church which sustains such a relation! How ¡ simply to watch; to guard ; to keep. Our trans- | anxious to be worthy to appear before the Son

lation would seem to imply that there was a body of God! of men stationed in order to guard the city. The 3. All the individual members of that church true idea is, that there were men who were ap- should be holy. (Ver. 2.) They, as individuals, pointed to guard the gates of the city, and to are soon to be presented in heaven, as the fruit keep watch lest he should escape them. Dainas- of the labours of the Son of God, and as entitled cus was surrounded, as all ancient cities were, to his eternal love. How pure should be the lips with high walls, and it did not occur to them that are soon to speak his praise in heaven! how that he could escape in any other way than by pure the eyes that are soon to behold his glory! the gates.

how holy the feet that are soon to tread his courts

in the heavenly world! VER. 33. And through a window in a basket was 4. There is great danger of being corrupted I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands. from the simplicity that is in Christ. (Ver. 3.)

Satan desires to destroy us, and his great object And through a window. That is, through a is readily accomplished if he can seduce Chrislittle door or aperture in the wall; perhaps tians from simple devotedness to the Redeemer; if something like an embrasure, that might have he can secure corruption in doctrine, or in the been large enough to allow a man to pass through manner of worship, and can produce conformity it. Luke says (Acts ix. 25) that they let him down in dress and in the style of living to this world. " by the wall." But there is no inconsistency. Formerly he excited persecution, but in that he They doubtless first passed him through the em- | was foiled. The more the church was persecuted, brasure or loop-hole in the wall, and then let him the more it grew. Then be changed his ground. down gently by the side of it. Luke does not say What he could not do by persecution, he sought it was over the top of the wall, but merely that he to do by corrupting the church ; and in this be descended by the wall. It is not probable that an has been by far more successful. This can be embrasure or opening would be near the bottom, done slowly but certainly ; effectually, but withaud consequently there would be a considerable out exciting suspicion. And it matters not to distance for him to descend by the side of the Satan whether the church is crippled by persewall after he had passed through the window. cution, or its zeal destroyed by false doctrine and Bloomfield, however, supposes that the phrase by conformity to the world. His aim is secured, employed by Luke, and rendered “ by the wall," and the power of the church destroyed. The means properly, “through the wall.” But I pre- | form in which he now assails the church is by fer the former interpretation. In a basket.The attempting to seduce it from simple and hearty word here used (oaoyávn) means any thing attachment to the Saviour; and, oh! in how braided or twisted; hence a rope-basket, a net- | many instances is he successful. work of cords, or a wicker hamper. It might 5. Our religion has cost much suffering. We have been such an one as was used for catching have in this chapter a detail of extraordinary fish, or it might have been made for the occasion. | trials and sorrows in establishing it; and we have The word used by Luke (Acts ix. 25) is on voic reason to be thankful, in some degree, that the -a word usually meaning a basket for storing enemies of Paul made it necessary for him to grain, provisions, &c. Where Paul went imme- | boast in this manner. We have thus some most diately after he had escaped them, he does not interesting details of facts of which otherwise we here say. From Gal. i. 17, it appears that he should have been ignorant; and we see that the went into Arabia, where he spent some time, and life of Paul was a lite of continual self-denial and then returned to Damascus, and after three years toil. By sea and land; at home and abroad; he went up to Jerusalem. It would not have among his own countrymen and strangers, he been safe to have gone to Jerusalem at once, and was subjected to continued privations and perse

2 B

cution. So it has been always in regard to the | fice its comforts to make the gospel known as it establishment of the gospel. It began its career | was in the days of Paul. We may add, also, that in the sufferings of its great Author, and the | if there was the same devotedness to Christ foundation of the church was laid in his blood. | evinced by all Christians now which is described It progressed amidst sufferings, for all the apos in this chapter ; if there was the same zeal and tles, except John, it is supposed, were martyrs. self-denial, the time would not be far distant It continued to advance amidst sufferings--for ten when the gospel would be spread all around the fiery persecutions raged throughout the Roman | world. May the time soon come when all Chrisempire, and thousands died in consequence of tians shall have the same self-denial as Paal; their professed attachment to the Saviour. It has | and especially when all who enter the ministry been always propagated in heathen lands by self- shall be willing to forsake country and home denials and sacrifices, for the life of a missionary and to encounter peril in the city and the wilderis that of sacrifice and toil. How many such men ness; on the sea and the land ; to meet cold, and as David Brainerd and Henry Martyn have sacri- nakedness, hunger, thirst, persecution, and death ficed their lives in order to extend the true reli- | in any way in order that they may make known gion around the world!

the name of the Saviour to a lost world. 6. All that we enjoy is the fruit of the sufferings, toils, and sacrifices of others. We have not one Christian privilege or hope which has not cost the life of many a martyr. How thankful should we be to God that he was pleased to raise up men who would be willing thus to suffer, and

CHAPTER XII. that he sustained and kept them until their work was accomplished !

VER. 1. It is not expedient for me doubtless to 7. We may infer the sincerity of the men en

glory. I will come to visions and revelations gaged in propagating the Christian religion. | What had Paul to gain in the sorrows which hel of the Lord. endured? Why did he not remain in his own

a For I will. land, and reap the honours which were then fully within his grasp ? The answer is an easy This chapter is a continuation of the same one. It was because he believed that Christianity | general subject which was discussed in the tvo was true; and believing that, he believed that it previous chapters. The general design of the was of importance to make it known to the world. apostle is, to defend himself from the charges Paul did not endure these sorrows, and encounter brought against him in Corinth, and especially, these perils, for the sake of pleasure, honour, or as would appear, from the charge that he had no gain. No man who reads this chapter can doubt claims to the character of an apostle. In the that he was sincere, and that he was an honest previous chapters he had met these charges, and mau,

had shown that he bad just cause to be bold to8. The Christian religion is, therefore, true. Not wards them; that he had in his life given eribecause the first preachers were sincere—for the dence that he was called to this work, and espeadvocates of error are often sincere, and are willing cially that by his successes and by his sufferings to suffer much, or even to die as martyrs; but be- he had showed that he had evidence that he had cause this was a case when their sincerity proved | been truly engaged in the work of the Lord the facts in regard to the truth of Christianity. It Jesus. was not sincerity in regard to opinions merely, it This chapter contains the following subjects. was in regard to facts. They not only believed that 1. Paul appeals to another evidence that he the Messiah had come, and died, and risen again, was engaged in the apostolic office-an evidence but they saw him-saw him when he lived ; saw to which none of his accusers could appeal—that him die ; saw him after he was risen : and it was he had been permitted to behold the glories of in relation to these facts they were sincere. But the heavenly world. (Ver. 1-10.) In the prehow could they be deceived here? Men may be vious chapter he had mentioned his trials. Here deceived in their opinions; but how could John, he says (ver. I) that as they had compelled him e. 9., be deceived in affirming that he was inti- to boast, he would mention the revelation wbich mately acquainted -- the bosom friend - with he had had of the Lord. He details, therefore, Jesus of Nazareth ; that he saw him die; and the remarkable vision which he had had several that he conversed with him after he had died? | years before, (ver. 2-4,) when he was caught up In this he could not be mistaken; and sooner to heaven, and permitted to behold the wonders than deny this, John would have spent his whole there. Yet he says, that lest such an extraordilife in a cave in Patmos, or have died on the nary manifestation should esalt him above meacross or at the stake. But if John saw all this, sure, he was visited with a sore and peculiar trial then the Christian religion is true.

-a trial from which he prayed earnestly to be 9. We should be willing to suffer now. If Paul | delivered, but that he received answer that the and the other apostles were willing to endure so grace of God would be sufficient to support him. much, why should not we be ? If they were | (Ver. 5-9.) It was in view of this, he says, willing to deny themselves so much in order that (ver. 10,) that he had pleasure in infirmities and the gospel should be spread among the nations, sufferings in the cause of the Redeemer. why should not we be? It is now just as im- | 2. He then (ver. 11, 12) sums up what he had portant that it should be spread as it was then ; said; draws the conclusion that he had giren and the church should be just as willing to sacri- every sign or evidence that he was an apostle ;

that in all that pertained to toil, and patience, and of Galilee?” (Acts viii. 31.) “How can I then miracles, he had shown that he was commissioned (màs yão) except some man should guide me?" by the Saviour; though with characteristic mo- See also Acts xix. 35. Rom. ii. 3. Phil. i. 18. desty he said he was nothing.

To visions. The word vision is used in the Scrip3. He then expresses his purpose to come tures often to denote the mode in which divine again and see them, and his intention then not to communications were usually made to men. This be burdensome to them. (Ver. 13—15.) He was was done by causing some scene to appear to willing to labour for them, and to exhaust his pass before the mind as in a landscape, so that strength in endeavouring to promote their welfare the individual seemed to see a representation of without receiving support from them, for he re- what was to occur in some future period. It was garded himself in the light of a father to them, | usually applied to prophecy, and is often used in and it was not usual for children to support their the Old Testament. See my Note on Isa. i. 1, parents.

and also on Acts ix. 10. The vision which Paul 4. In connexion with this, he answers another here refers to was that which he was permitted charge against himself. Some accused him of to have of the heavenly world. (Ver. 4.) He being crafty ; that though he did not burden was permitted to see what perhaps no other morthem, yet he knew well how to manage so as to tal had seen, the glory of heaven. And revelasecure what he wanted without burdening them, tions of the Lord. Which the Lord had made. or seeming to receive anything from them. Or it may mean manifestations which the Lord (Ver. 16.) To this he answers by an appeal to had made of himself to him. The word renfact. Particularly he appeals to the conduct of dered revelations means properly an uncovering, Titus when with them, in full proof that he bad (αποκάλυψις, from αποκαλύπτω, to uncover) no such design. (Ver. 17-19.)

and denotes a removal of the veil of ignorance 5. In the conclusion of the chapter, he expres and darkness, so that an object may be clearly ses his fear that when he should come among seen; and is thus applied to truth revealed, bethem he would find much that would humble cause the obscurity is removed and the truth bethem, and give him occasion for severity of dis comes manifest. cipline. (Ver. 20, 21.) This apprehension is evidently expressed in order that they might be led VER. 2. I knew a man in Christ about fourto examine themselves, and to put away what

teen years ago, (whether in the body I canever was wrong. It is not expedient. It is not well; it does not

not tell ; or whether out of the body, I cannot become me." This may either mean that he felt

tell: God knoweth ;) such an one caught up and admitted that it did not become him to boast to the third heaven. in this manner; that there was an impropriety in his doing it, though circumstances had com

6 Rom. xvi. 7. c A. D. 46. Acts xxii. 17. pelled him, and in this sense it is understood by ! I knew a man in Christ.--I was acquainted nearly, or quite, all expositors; or it may be with a Christian ; the phrase “ in Christ” meantaken ironically. “Such a man as I am ought ing nothing more than that he was united to not to boast. So you say, and so it would seem. | Christ or was a Christian. See Rom. xvi. 7. A man who has done no more than I have; who The reason why Paul did not speak of this dihas suffered nothing; who has been idle and at rectly as a vision which he had himself seen was ease as I have been, ought surely not to boast. And probably that he was accused of boasting, and he since there is such an evident impropriety in my had admitted that it did not become him to glory. boasting and speaking about myself, I will turn | But though it did not become him to boast dito another matter, and inquire whether the same rectly, yet he could tell them of a man concernthing may not be said about visions and revela- ing whom there would be no impropriety evitions. I will speak, therefore, of a man who had dently in boasting. It is not uncommon, more. some remarkable revelations, and inquire whe- | over, for a man to speak of himself in the third ther he has any right to boast of the favours im- person. Thus Cæsar in his Commentaries uniparted to him.” This seems to me to be the pro- formly speaks of himself. And so John in his bable interpretation of this passage. To glory. | gospel speaks of himself. (Chap. xiii. 23, 24; -To boast. (Chap. x. 8, 13; xi. 10.) One of xix. 26; xxi. 20.) John did it on account of his the charges which they alleged against him was, modesty, because he would not appear to put himthat he was given to boasting without any good self forward, and because the mention of his own reason. After the enumeration in the previous name as connected with the friendship of the Sachapter of what he had done and suffered, he viour in the remarkable manner in which he ensays that this was doubtless very true. Such joyed it, might have savoured of pride. For a a man had nothing to boast of. I will come. similar reason Paul may have been unwilling to Marg. “ For I will.” Our translators have omit mention his own name here; and he may have ted the word (yào) “for” in the text, evidently abstained from referring to this occurrence elsesupposing that it is a mere expletive. Doddridge where, because it might savour of pride, and renders it, “ nevertheless.” But it seems to me | might also excite the envy or ill-will of others. that it contains an important sense, and that it Those who have been most favoured with spishould be rendered by “then.” “Since it is not fit | ritual enjoyments will not be the most ready to that I should glory, then I will refer to visions, &c. proclaim it. They will cherish the remembrance I will turn a way then from that subject, and come in order to excite gratitude in their own hearts to another." Thus the word (yàp) is used in John and support them in trial; they will not blazon vii. 41. “ Shall then (un yàp) Christ come out it abroad as if they were more the favourites of

himsa

Heaven than others are. That this refers to Paul See Acts vii. 56. It is clear only that he lost all

is evident for the following reasons. (1.) consciousness of any thing about him at that His argument required that he should mention time, and that he saw only the things in heaven. something that had occurred to himself. Any It may be added here, however, that Paul erithing that had occurred to another would not dently supposed that his soul might be taken to have been pertinent. (2.) He applies it directly | heaven without the body, and that it might have to himself. (ver. 7.) when he says that God took separate consciousness and a separate existence. effectual measures that he should not be unduly | He was not, therefore, a materialist, and he did exalted in view of the abundant revelations be not believe that the existence and consciousness stowed on him. About fourteen years ago.-On of the soul was dependent on the body. God what occasion or where this occurred, or why he knoweth.-With the mode in which it was done concealed the remarkable fact so long, and why God only could be acquainted. Paul did not a there is no other allusion to it, is unknown; and tempt to explain that. That was to him of comconjecture is useless. If this epistle was written, paratively little consequence, and he did not lose as is commonly supposed, about the year 58, then his time in a vain attempt to explain it. How this occurrence must have happened about the happy would it be if all theologians were as ready year 44. This was several years after his con- i to be satisfied with the knowledge of a fact, and version, and of course this does not refer to the to leave the mode of explaining it with God, as trance mentioned in Acts ix. 9, at the time when this prince of theologians was. Many a man he was converted. Dr. Benson supposes that would have busied himself with a vain speculation this vision was made to him when he was praying about the way in which it was done; Paul was in the temple after his return to Jerusalem, when contented with the fact that it had occurred. he was directed to go from Jerusalem to the Such an one caught up.—The word which is here Gentiles, (Acts xxii. 17,) and that it was intended | used (aptácw) means, to seize upon, to spato to support him in the trials which he was about away, as wolves do their prey, (John xü, 10 ;) to endure. There can be little danger of error or to seize with avidity or eagerness, (Matt. xi. in supposing that its object was to support him | 12 ;) or to carry away, to hurry off by force or in those remarkable trials, and that God designed involuntarily. See John vi. 15. Acts vi. 39; to impart to him such views of heaven and its xxiii. 10. In the case before us there is implied glory, and of the certainty that he would soon the idea that Paul was conveyed by a foreign be admitted there, as to support him in his suffer- force; or that he was suddenly seized and spate ings, and make him willing to bear all that should ed up to heaven. The word expresses the sudbe laid upon him. God often gives to his people denness and the rapidity with which it was done. some clear and elevated spiritual comforts before

Probably it was instantaneous, so that he apthey enter into trials as well as while in them ; peared at once to be in heaven. Of the mode in he prepares them for them before they come. which it was done Paul has given no explanaThis vision Paul had kept secret for fourteen tions; and conjecture would be useless. To the years. He had doubtless often thought of it ;

third heaven.-The Jews sometimes speak of seren and the remembrance of that glorious hour was heavens, and Mahomet has borrowed this id doubtless one of the reasons why he bore trials from the Jews. But the Bible speaks but of so patiently and was willing to endure so much.

three heavens, and among the Jews in the aposBut before this he had had no occasion to men

tolic ages also the heavens were divided into tion it. He had other proofs in abundance that three. (1.) The aerial, including the clouds and he was called to the work of an apostle; and to

the atmosphere, the heavens above us, until we mention this would savour of pride and ostenta

come to the stars. (2.) The starry heavens, the

come to the stai tion. It was only when he was compelled to heavens in which the sun, moon, and stars appear refer to the evidences of his apostolic mission to be situated. (3.) The heavens beyond t that he refers to it here. Whether in the body Istars. That heaven was supposed to be the res cannot tell. That is, I do not pretend to explain

dence of God, of angels, and of holy spirits. It it. I do not know how it occurred. With the was this upper beaven,

was this upper heaven, the dwelling-place of fact he was acquainted ; but how it was brought

God, to which Paul was taken, and whose wonabout he did not know. Whether the body was ders he was permitted to behold-this region caught up to heaven; whether the soul was for where God dwelt; where Christ was seated at a time separated from the body; or whether the the right-hand of the Father, and

the right-hand of the Father, and where the spiscene passed before the mind in a vision, so that

rits of the just were assembled. The fanciful he seemed to have been caught up to heaven, he

opinions of the Jews about seven heavens may does not pretend to know. The evident idea is, be seen detailed in Schoettgen or in Wetstein, hy that at the time he was in a state of insensibility whom the principal passages from the Jewish in regard to surrounding objects, and was uncon

writings relating to the subject have been collectscious of what was occurring, as if he had been ed. As their opinions throw no light on this pasdead. Where Paul confesses his own ignorance sage, it is unnecessary to detail them here. of what occurred to himself it would be vain for us to inquire; and the question how this was done VER. 3. And I knew such a man, (whether in is immaterial. No one can doubt that God had

the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: power if he chose to transport the body to heaven; or that he had power for a time to separate

God knoweth ;) the soul from the body; or that he had power to And I knew such a man.-It is not uncommon represent to the mind so clearly the view of the to repeat a solemn affirmation, in order that it heavenly world that he would appear to see it may be made more emphatic. This is done here.

Si

« PreviousContinue »