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drink when he was athirst; and it was the only proof which, in the circumstances stated, could be sustained. If Onesiphorus had made some enquiries after Paul, but on finding it difficult to discover the place of his confinement, had desisted from them, and left with some member of the Roman church his affectionate salutations to the Apostle, together with a sum of money to support him in prison, think you, my brethren, that this would have been accepted as a sufficient token of regard, or that it would have refreshed the soul of the prisoner? Verily no. In that case, Paul would have been disposed to reply to his message in the words which a poet has put into the mouth of a female mentioned in the New Testament,"Visit me, and retain thy gifts." The present would have been regarded as an affront, and the salutations as a renunciation of friendship. Nothing, we may be sure, which was needful to relieve the temporal necessities of the Apostle, or which could help to lighten his chain, or alleviate his sufferings, would be withheld by this affectionate and munificent friend. But if any thing of this kind was given, it was not thought worthy of being mentioned at the same time with his personal visit. Upon this Paul set a higher value than upon "all the substance of his house." To see the face of his ancient benefactor before he died, to receive his cordial and Christian embrace, to hear again his well-known and never-forgotten accents, to learn from his own lips, what he had heard from the report of others, that he retained all his former love to Christ, to his gospel, to his servant, this" this was the refreshing." This made all the garments of his visitant to smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia; and converted his narrow and gloomy cell into an ivory palace, in which he could entertain and make glad his guest.

Though an Apostle, though endued with such deep insight into the mysteries of the gospel, that the very chiefest of the Apostles "added nothing to him in conference," and though now grown old in Christian experience, Paul did not think himself above receiving consolation and spiritual benefit from the meanest saint. In "giving and receiving" this, he was always ready to communicate with his brethren. Hence he

assigned this reason for wishing to visit the Christians at Rome," that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”* We cannot doubt that he was "refreshed" on the present occasion by the conversation which he held with Onesiphorus. And what might the nature of that conversation be? Not, perhaps, exactly that which we might at first suppose it to have been. When Moses and Elias appeared with our Saviour on the Holy Mount, though he was transfigured before them, they did not entertain him with the glories of the celestial city from which they had just made their descent; but "they spake of the decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.” Paul and Onesiphorus would not spend the precious moments in talking of the passing news of the day, nor even in recalling the incidents of their former life when they knew one another in happier external circumstances. Their communings would be on higher themes; nor would their countenances be sad while they discoursed of Him who died for them, and rose again, and was now at the right hand of God,—and of his love, from which no distance of place, or depth of distress, or form of death, could separate them,—and of the triumphs which the cross had gained over the powers of darkness, and the still more signal triumphs which awaited it in its irresistible progress,—and of the death by which Paul was shortly to glorify God, and to seal his preaching, now "fully made known to the Gentiles," and of the comforts which would make him more than a conqueror in the closing conflict,-and of the joy of his Lord, into which he would immediately enter. On these high and heart-ravishing themes would they dilate, while the hours fled unheeded away, until the faint glimmerings of the lamp, reflected from the walls of the cell, discovered to them the haggard faces of its fierce inmates subdued into a temporary tameness, while they listened with fixed attention to the strange things which now for the first time saluted their ears; and while their every feature expressed the surprise and astonishment which they felt at witnessing the joy and tran

Rom. i. 18.

sports of a detested criminal, who had the prospect of speedily terminating his life in the midst of the most excruciating

torments.

But though the conversation of Onesiphorus must have imparted high pleasure to Paul, it was not the chief source of the gratulation which he expressed at his visit. What conveyed the most lively joy to his heart, was the testimony which his Ephesian friend had given of his love to the gospel, by "despising the shame" with which its imprisoned apostle was then loaded. "He refreshed me," for " he was not ashamed of my chain." You may feel some difficulty in entering fully into the force of this reason. If the apostle had said, He was not afraid of incurring my bonds,' you could have understood him more easily. This was included; but there is great propriety in expressing the whole of the sufferings to which Christians were then exposed by this part of them; for in reality shame was the gall of its bitterness. Hence the language in which Paul addresses his exhortation to Timothy in the context: "Be not thou ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel :" and hence, too, his declaration concerning himself, "I suffer these things, nevertheless I am not ashamed." You will err exceedingly, my brethren, if you suppose there was any resemblance between Onesiphorus's visit to Paul, and those which charitable and pious individuals are now accustomed to pay to prisons, with the laudable view of alleviating the bodily sufferings, or ministering to the spiritual wants of their wretched inhabitants; visits, which, so far from exposing them to disgrace, greatly enhance their reputation. Nor are you to imagine that the shame was incurred by a man of respectable rank visiting and conversing with a prisoner in chains, or that it arose in any degree from the worthless character of the malefactors with whom the apostle was confined. So far was this from being the case, that it was then much less disgraceful to suffer as a thief or a murderer than as a Christian. It would lead us away from our subject to enquire into the causes which co-operated in producing this feeling. Suffice it at present to

say, that it appears from the concurring testimony of civil and ecclesiastical history, that from a variety of causes (not involving the conduct of its professors), Christianity had at this time fallen under extreme odium at Rome, the most diabolical calumnies against its friends were industriously circulated and greedily believed; and they were regarded, by the multitude, magistrates, and philosophers, with a mixture of hatred, horror, and contempt not to be described. During his first imprisonment, Paul was kept under an easy restraint, lived in his own hired house under the guard of a soldier, received his friends, and preached the gospel, without any hindrance. But it was quite otherwise now during his second imprisonment. He was thrown into chains, capitally arraigned, and although he had miraculously escaped at his first appearance before Nero, yet he looked every day for the pronouncing of his doom. Accordingly all his brethren, even those who had hitherto stuck most closely by him, had withdrawn and left him to his fate. No man knew him. It was only after a long search, and many fruitless enquiries, that Onesiphorus could discover the dungeon in which he was confined, and trace him to his cell, where he was shut up with the most depraved of the criminals who swarmed in the metropolis of the world" men-stealers, murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers," who yet shunned his society, and looked on themselves as they were looked on by others, as felons less foul than-that Christian.

Come hither, my brethren, draw near, and look on infant Christianity," "the mother of us all." Do ye recognise her? Her cradle a cell, her clothing rags, her swathing-band an iron chain, her nurse a gaoler, her mates and betters the vilest of the malefactors! Here let us humble ourselves, and try whether we be Christians indeed. Ah! how little know we of suffering shame for the name of the Lord Jesus! Which of us would be able to bear the proof, if, to testify our attachment to him, it were necessary for us to submit to be made a gazing-stock by reproaches and afflictions, or to become companions of them that were so used? It was this proof of love to the gospel, and of unextinguishable affection

for himself on the part of Onesiphorus, that penetrated the heart of Paul, and filled it with exultation. "He was not ashamed of my chain." Ashamed of it? No: he gloried in it, embraced it, called it the chain of his blessed Saviour, and protested that for his sake he would willingly bind it about his neck, and wear it as a badge of distinction more honourable than the diadem of Cæsar.

II. Of Paul's return for the kindness of Onesiphorus.

Alas! what return could he make for such rare and disinterested goodness? Although it had been possible to discharge the debt, he was at present utterly destitute of the means. His feet were fast bound in the stocks; and he could not even testify his gratitude in-that way in which the meanest pauper feels a pleasure in doing it, while he accompanies his benefactor to the door of the hovel which he had cheered by his presence. All his friends had deserted him; and there was not an individual within the walls of the crowded city to whom he could delegate the performance of the rites of hospitality due to the friendly stranger. Did there then remain to Paul no way of expressing his gratitude? Yes, there was one, and that more excellent and efficient than all those to which we have alluded. He could not follow Onesiphorus to the door of his cell; but he could follow him whither-soever he went with his prayers. He could give him no assistance in the secular business which had brought him to Rome; but he could further his views in the more lucrative traffic which he carried on with heaven. He could not say to him, as the prophet to his Shunammite hostess, "Wouldst thou be spoken for to the king or the captain of the host ?” * But he had interest at a higher court than that of any king or emperor, and could speak for him to the Captain of Salvation. True he was in bonds; but he was "an ambassador in bonds;" and those who had dared to throw into prison the ambassador of the King of Kings, and to interrupt him in the discharge of his embassy, could not prevent him from maintaining an intercourse

* 2 Kings, iv. 13.

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