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before, yet puts forth to sea again. A clear call from God, will carry on a christian cheerfully to grapple with all imaginary difficulties and dangers, without either dispute or delay. Thus did the apostle here; he enters a ship of Alexandria, sails from Malta to Syracuse in Sicily, from thence to Rhegium, in Italy, from thence to Puteoli; where they found some christians, with whom they abode seven days. Here note, How wonderfully the christian religion was spread abroad in the Italian country, yea, in and about Rome, before St. Paul's coming thither. From Puteoli the apostle passes to Rome, the chief city in Italy, the empress of the world, the scat of the Roman emperor. Behold how God bears witness to, and puts honour upon, his suffering servant; he passes to Rome, more like a conqueror than a prisoner. He is met upon the road by many eminent persons, as conquerors used to be, to congratulate their great victories; even by christians, who are called brethren, ver. 15. who are not ashamed of St. Paul's chain, but left their houses, and came forth to meet him, some fifty miles, others thirty; some one day's journey, others two; to congratulate his coming, and pay their respect unto him: for which favour the apostle thanked God and took courage. That is, he owned it as an encouragement sent from God unto him, and was greatly refreshed by their company. But how came christians so early to be found at Rome? Who converted them? St. Paul had never been there till now, and we read not of St. Peter, or any of the apostles, having been there thus early; yet St. Paul finds many christians at and about Rome. Answer, These brethren are thought to be converted by such as were present at Jerusalem at the feast of Pentecost, Acts ii. 10. where it is expressly said, That there were strangers of Rome then present, when those mighty miracles were wrought there; and we may suppose that they, becoming true converts at that time, did propagate the gospel in and about Rome, according to their ability; and the blessing of God so accompanied and succeeded their endeavours, that the apostle now found some saints even in Nero's house: Thus mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed. 16 And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by him
self, with a soldier that kept him. 17 And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together. And when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Roamined me, would have let me go, 18 Who, when they had exbecause there was no cause of death in me. 19 But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Cesar; not that I had aught to accuse my nation of. 20 For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.
lodged a prisoner at Rome, according to Now is the great apostle landed and the divine prediction, chap. xxiii. 11. Be of of me at Jerusalem, so shalt thou bear good cheer, Paul; as thou hast testified witness also at Rome. Yet observe, 1. The favour which God gave him in the sight of his enemies: he is not clapped up in the common gaol, but a sort of prihis own hired house, with his keeper with soner at large; he dwells by himself in him. This liberty was highly valued by the apostle, we may believe; not so much for his own comfort, as for the benefit and advantage of the gospel; for by this means he had an opportunity of going abroad and preaching the word of God in every place, as the providence of God gave him opportunity. Observe, 2. St. Paul is no sooner come to Rome, with desire and design, no doubt, to preach the gospel there to his countrymen the Jews in the first place; but he sends for the Jews to come to him, states his case to them, lays the matter of fact before them, and endeavours to remove all prejudice from their minds, which they might have taken up against him, and so have missed of the benefit of his ministry. From whence learn, That it is the great duty of the ministers of the gospel, prudently to all prejudices, which may be taken up by prevent, if possible, or presently to remove, their people against their persons; knowing that if they have a prejudice against their
persons, they will never relish their doctrine, nor be benefited by their ministry. Thus did the great apostle here endeavour to set himself right with his auditors the Jews, before he began to preach to them. Observe, 3. How the apostle was not ashamed of, but rather glories in, the cause for which he suffered For the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. As if he had said, "For preaching that Messiah who hath long been hoped and prayed for, I am come hither a prisoner; or, for the sake of Jesus Christ, the promised Messias, whom all true Israelites long expected and hoped for, who is now come in the flesh, to be their Redeemer, and in whom all the true Israel of God repose all their hope of salvation, and by whom they expect a joyful resurrection, I am bound with this chain." Here observe, 1. The hard usage which the blessed apostle meets with from the hands of a wicked world: a chain is clapped upon him, as if he was some rogue or thief. Paul the lamb, was now a prisoner to Nero the lion. The best of men may, and oft do, suffer under the notion of the most vile and wicked persons. Observe, 2. The true cause of St. Paul's sufferings: For the hope of Israel I am bound. That is, for the object of Israel's hope, or the Messiah which they so long expected, and so much hoped for. Observe, 3. The publication which St. Paul makes of his sufferings here at Rome: he tells all the world, for whom, and in whose cause he now suffered. Thence learn, That sufferings for Christ and the gospel are no matter of shame, but glory: the apostle doth not blush to say, For the hope of Israel, I wear this chain; the shame belonged to them that clapped on the chain, not to him that wore it. Observe, 4. The end why the apostle makes known his sufferings; namely, That all the Jews now at Rome might know the true cause wherefore he suffered. St. Paul's enemies had laid heavy things to his charge, which possibly might fly as far as Rome: now although he little regarded what the wicked world said of him, yet he desired to stand right in the thoughts of the Jews here at Rome; and therefore as soon as he was come thither, he sends for them to acquaint them with the cause of his imprisonment. When good men are in a suffering condition, the devil is very industrious to defame them, and the world very ready to misrepresent them; therefore it is a duty which is owing to themselves, to vindicate their own innocency, and to set
forth the cause of their sufferings in a clear and true light. It is verily for the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.
21 And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came, shewed or spake any harm of thee. 22 But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.
23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the 24 And some believed the things prophets, from morning till evening. which were spoken, and some believed not.
Observe here, 1. The advantage which the apostle had to preach the gospel to these Jews at Rome: they assure him that they had entertained no prejudice against his person; for they had received no letters out of Judea concerning him; neither had any of their brethren that came from Judea spoken any evil of him; yea, they assure him, it was their desire to hear him preach, and to understand what he had to say for the christian religion, (which they call a sect or heresy,) that both Jews and Gentiles did generally oppose and speak against and talk hardly of. Observe, 2. How readily the apostle complies with their request in preaching to them: time and place are appointed, the people assembled. The great truth defended and approved was this, That Jesus of Nazareth was the true and promised Messiah, in whom all that desire to be saved ought to believe and trust. This argument he confirmed by testimonies out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, continuing his discourse from morning until night; so unwearied was this faithful labourer in his Lord and Master's work. Observe, 3. The different success of the word preached, and the contrary effects which it had upon its hearers: Some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. As the same sun that softens the wax hardens the clay, so has
the gospel different effects upon those it is preached to; there are some whom no sun will tan, no heat will warm, no influence will quicken. To some we are the savour of life unto life, to others the savour of death unto death: but, blessed be God, if we his ministers be found faithful, we shall be a sweet savour unto God, as well in them that perish, as in them that are saved.
25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, 26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive : 27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. 29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.
The obstinate infidelity and unreasonable unbelief which was found among the Jews under the apostle's preaching, was no doubt a great grief of heart unto him; but at their departure he tells them, that they would not be persuaded that this unbelief of theirs was what the prophet Esaias had long before punctually foretold, That hearing they will not hear, and seeing they will not see; having contracted such a wilful hardness, blindness, and deafness, as will not suffer them to hearken to any counsel which may end to their conversion and salvation. Here note, That though the present unbelief of the obstinate Jews to whom the apostle now preached, was long before foretold by the prophets of God; yet the prophets' prediction was no cause of their unbelief, or that which laid them under an impossibility of believing; but
the fault lay in their own obstinate wills; with respect to which, by the just judgment of God, they were blinded and hardened. When sinners close their eyes wilfully, and say, They will not see; it is just with God to close their eyes judicially, and say, They shall not see. Deus non deserit nisi deserentem; the Jews had forsaken God, and now God forsakes them. But the apostle tells them, that upon this refusal of theirs he was to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, and that they would hear it, and gladly receive it, ver. 29. The salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it. Where observe, The epithet or title given to the gospel, The salvation of God. 1. It and universal offer of life and salvation unto is styled salvation, because it makes a tender lost sinners. 2. It is called the salvation of God, because it is a salvation of his provid ing and contriving, of his revealing and discovering. It is his by way of patefaction and discovery; his by way of tender and offer; his by way of power and efficacy; Gentiles. The salvation of God is sent unto the
30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him. 31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.
Note here, 1. The special favour indulged St. Paul, now a prisoner at Rome, with so much freedom, and without any molestation, to preach the gospel in his own hired house for two years together. Where observe, 1. Who preaches; St. Paul a prisoner, who scarcely had liberty to hear, rarely to preach. 2. Where he preached; even in proud, powerful, and imperious Rome, and in his own hired house there. 3. To whom he preached: To all that came unto him. He set open the doors of his house for all comers, excluding none from the gracious offers of salvation by a Redeemer, upon the condition of faith and obedience. 4. How long he continued his ministry at Rome; for two whole years at that time: he would neither be allured by flatteries, nor hectored by threatenings, to lay down his ministry, or desist from his preaching work. 5. After what manner he preached; with all confidence, boldness, openness, and freedom, with such an undaunted courage as neither a love of life,
nor fear of death, could overcome. 6. The subject matter of his preaching: The kingdom of God, and things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ; not vain janglings or envious railings, but Jesus Christ, and the way of salvation by him. Lastly, with what freedom he did all this, No man forbidding him; neither emperor, nor senate, nor magistrate, nor soldier, nor priest, nor people, though in an heathen_city, devoted to idolatry, in the least hindering or forbidding him. Where note, That Rome heathen of old was far less cruel and much more courteous to the preachers of the gospel, than Rome antichristian since has been. Then an apostle might preach two years together without molestation in his own hired house, to all comers; but now a minister of God must there have no public or private place of meeting to worship God according to his word and will, without the danger of an inquisition.
To conclude: See how impossible it was at that day to hinder the progress of the gospel; even as impossible as to hinder the sun from shining, or the wind from blowing. That God, who shut the mouths of the hungry lions, that they hurt not Daniel, did open the mouth of the apostle, that neither Nero nor the Jews could stop it; yea, after this, he was delivered from the mouth of the
lion; rescued out of Nero's hands. And God would have continued to deliver him, had not his death been more for the glory of God and his own advantage than his life, which at last was offered up a sacrifice and sweet-smelling savour, acceptable unto God though Jesus Christ.
Thus St. Luke concludes his history of St. Paul's life, without giving us any particulars of his death. He leaves him at Rome, a prisoner under Nero, where after two years' confinement, the scriptures seem to hint, that he was at liberty, and that he went about preaching the gospel and confirming the churches for some years; but an attempt to trace this apostle farther without scripture light, may be the ready way to lose ourselves. Let us therefore conclude with prayer,
That almighty God, who through the preaching of his apostle St. Paul did cause the light of the glorious gospel to shine throughout the world, would mercifully grant that we, having his wonderful conversion and instructive example in our remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness unto him for the same, by following the holy doctrine which he taught. through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.