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no offence to Jew or Gentile, or to the church of God. Paul was faithful, and by that made many enemies ; but Paul, instead of wishing to give offence, laboured to become all things to all men, that he might gain some.
There is offence enough in the cross, without adding any thing to it. Let us profess all the truth, and practise all the duties which we have learned from the Scripture: let us defend that truth and practice against all their enemies. But let us not suffer for our own whims. Let it be God's truth only for which we can contend. Then we will be enabled to despise ridicule and reproach ; and with exultation anticipate the promise to faithfulness, when the Lord comes to judgment. We ought not to preach the gospel as a cruel magistrate would read the riot act, merely as a form to enable us lawfully to fire on the crowd. We ought to wish earnestly, and to pray fervently, and to strive with all the zeal of love, to bring the opposer and the persecutor to the knowledge of Christ.
In the fact before us in this passage, we see how easily the Providence of God turns the storm into a calm. By the conversion of Saul of Tarsus he gave rest to the churches. " Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria, and were edified ; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied."
Here we see that, if persecution is always overruled by Providence for the good of the truth, the direct means of edifying and multiplying believers is by
giving rest to the churches. Many new churches were planted through the means of the late persecution which arose on the death of Stephen ; but these churches were all edified and multiplied in the time of rest from persecution. Let us not, then, wish for persecution, but let us use that rest which we enjoy in energy of efforts for the prosperity of Zion.
Here we see also that Providence can give peace and rest to the churches as easily in countries which are arbitrary and tyrannical in their government as in the freest states. There is no external blessing more valuable to the Christian than a free govern. ment. When he enjoys liberty of conscience, he ought to be grateful to God, and grateful to the civil constitution which confers on him so valuable a privilege. Nothing is more unbecoming in a Christian than to encourage petulance, discontent, or a spirit of insubordination in the country in which he lives. But Christians who enjoy not this invaluable privilege ought not to be discouraged. They should remember that the supreme government of any country is in the hands of their Lord; and that he can protect them under a despot, as well as under a government limited by law. Here the churches have rest even in the countries in which they had been persecuted, without any change of rulers, or of the constitution of government.
Who is so blind as not to see Providence here? In Russia, the Christian ought not to meddle with those who should conspire to restrain despotism. His God give him peace
en from an absolute so
vereign, even when that absolute sovereign might be himself an enemy of God. When God desires to change a wicked and tyrannical government, his Providence will employ the hands of the wicked to effect his purpose. His children, in all cases, should obey the existing powers, in all things not contrary to the laws of God. Another observation equally true, and equally important, and almost equally obvious, is, that as God can give rest to his churches under the most despotic governments, so persecution may take place in one form or other, in the most free countries under heaven. In every country,' as a matter of fact, there is persecution under various forms. But even where there is protection by law, there may be annoyance and danger of life in the service of God. Who is ignorant that, under the British government, in some parts of the empire, a disciple of Christ could not oppose the superstitions of the people but at the hazard of life? Even where we live, then, in the countries that are blessed with liberty, we must, in the service of Christ, look to his Providence for protection. We may have liberty as an act of legislation, but the violence of irreligion may render it useless. What, then, I would wish to impress on all Christians is this : In free countries, let them not trust to their civil privileges for protection. Let their strength be the Rock of Israel. In despotic countries let them not be discouraged. If they have correct views of the duty of Christians to civil government, there will be no just grounds of suspicion against
them, even to the most tyrannical rulers. It is to be regretted, that though the nature of civil subjection is taught in Scripture, with a clearness, and precision, and fulness beyond almost any other subject, yet few, very few, Christians fully understand it. They are all perfectly willing to obey government as long as government patronises themselves and their religion ; but there are comparatively few who will not murmur when they are called to conscientious submission even under tyranny, and oppression, and persecution. Right views of Providence are as essential on this subject as right views of civil subjection. If Christians see their Lord ruling with an invisible arm in every thing that takes place on the earth, they will have no apprehension from the unreserved civil obedience that he allows them to give to their rulers. But if they overlook this, or look on Providence as ruling only by general design and original arrangement, they will wince when they feel the lash. The well taught Christian can see the Lord presiding in the fires of his execution. All things work together for the good of them who love God.
MEANS OF DETECTING SIMON MAGUS. -Acts viii. 18.
In the awful sovereignty of God ungodly men will, from time to time, creep into the best governed churches ; and they serve a purpose in the Divine wisdom. It is an opportunity for them to discover the deep depravity of their nature, and to try the
faithfulness of the true disciples, when they are manifested. In judgment occasion of offence is given to the world, and unsound professors are, by heresies and licentious doctrines, speciously introduced by persons under a cover of godliness, drawn aside from the truth. “Woe unto the world,” says Christ, " because of offences ! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh !"
The Providence of God, however, will usually in course of time discover such persons. Sometimes they will either broach heresies, or fall into the heresies of others. “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”—2 Pet. ii. 1-3. Here we seë that in Divine Providence the authors of heresies are admitted into the churches to manifest their opposition to the truth; and to discover all who are disaffected to it. Many are led into the pernicious ways. But none are led but those who are in heart unacquainted with the truth. " For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." This