網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

with Barnabas, and informing him of the circumstances of his conversion, he communicated them to the rest, and thus procured him admittance into their company. Paul tells us, however, in the passage before referred to, in the Epistle to the Galatians, that he only saw Peter and James : “Other of the apostles," says he, “saw I none." They might possibly be absent from Jerusalem. After he had seen them, he was received by the brethren in general.

28. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.

29. And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians :

These are supposed to be proselytes to the Jewish religion from the heathens of Asia, who were in general called Greeks or Grecians; and they seemed to have possessed the genuine zeal of proselytes, by the account here given of them.*

But they went about to slay him.

30. Which, when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Cæsarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.

Tarsus was the chief city of Cilicia, and Paul's native place. Here he had not been since he went up to Jerusalem, to study the law under Gamaliel. He probably travelled hither by land; for he tells us that after his visit to Jerusalem, he went into the parts of Syria and Cilicia.t In this journey, he probably met with some of those dangers which he describes in his epistles, and of which we have no account in this history. The Cæsarea here spoken of was not the maritime town of that name, so often mentioned in the book of Acts, but Cæsarea Philippi, which lay to the north of Judæa, and which must be in his way to Tarsus by land.

31. Then had the churches rest throughout all Judæa, and Galilee, and Samaria, 'and were edified, "increased," and, walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirt, were multiplied.

This period of peace is said, with great probability, to have been occasioned by an order given by Caligula to Petronius, governor of Syria, to set up a statue of the emperor in the temple of Jerusalem, in order to have divine honours paid to it; which was deemed so great a profanation, and was so highly offensive to the Jews, as to divert their attention from the persecution of Christians to a concern for the security of their own religion. The Christians increased in numbers during the late persecution, as appears from the churches which were established in different parts of the country, and they continued to increase during this period of rest, and enjoyed, at the same time, great comfort from the miraculous powers which they possessed, and from the knowledge of true religion which they acquired.

* Lardner, Vol. VI. pp. 262, 264, Note. + Doddridge. † Lardner and Doddridge.

REFLECTIONS.

1. We have here decisive and satisfactory proof of the sincerity of Paul's conversion to the Christian faith. He is not satisfied with the bare profession of Christianity, but resolves to teach it to others. He undertakes the office of an apostle in this cause, not hastily, not in a moment of rashness, but after due deliberation and reflection; not in a foreign country, where his history was not known, but in the very place where he had before persecuted the church, or where he intended to persecute, where he had reason to suppose that the story of his conversion would be well known, and where it was most likely to be controverted and exploded, if a forgery; and where he might probably have been confronted with the companions of his journey. These were the places which the apostle chose as the first scene of his ministry ; a scene where he must expect to encounter the bitter reproaches and violent animosity of his former associates and patrons, and where his life would be perpetually in danger. Would he have exposed himself to so much suffering for the sake of a falsehood? If he were not fully convinced of the truth of what he related, would he have published it in a place where the falsehood was most likely to be detected and exposed ?

2. We see also a striking proof of his benevolence. He was conscious, no doubt, that his former conduct had done much harm, not only to those who were the objects of his persecution, but also to their enemies, by inflaming their zeal and confirming their prejudices. He is resolved, therefore, to proclaim the truth in the very place where his errors had been made public, that he may thus prevent, or at least lessen, the mischief which his former conduct was calculated to produce; that those may be benefitted by his recantation who had been injured by his mistakes. He, no doubt, thought, and there was good reason to believe, that his appearance at Jerusalem as a Christian, where he had been once so zealous an opposer of Christianity, would attract the attention of other zealots, lead them to inquire into the ground of the change, and, at least, moderate their zeal, if not produce a similar change. To accomplish so important an object, therefore, he is willing to appear in the humiliating character of a rash and mistaken man, among his former acquaintance and friends, and to risk the dangers which might arise from the same zeal by which he was once animated.

8. We see that the gospel of Christ spreads under all circumstances; which is a plain proof that it is founded in truth. Persecution proved favourable to its advancement, by dispersing into various distant places the professors of this religion, who carried it with them where it was not before known. And when tranquillity returned, the fortitude and patience of the first Christians, in the profession of the truth in the hour of danger, could not fail to make a strong impression in its favour on the minds of those who had

been spectators of their conduct, and induce great numbers to embrace the Christian religion, when the danger arising thence was removed. They reasoned then, as we do now, that facts, in support of which so many hazard their lives, must be believed, and, if believed, be true.

SECTION XV.

Æneas is cured of a palsy, and Dorcas raised from the dead

by Peter.

[ocr errors]

32. And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.

As Christians were no longer molested by their enemies, but allowed a free intercourse with each other, Peter took advantage of this season of tranquillity, to visit every place in which there were any brethren, in order to encourage and animate them, in the profession of their new religion, by his presence and exhortations. Christians are here called saints, not with any reference to their moral character, as if they had better claims to sanctity than other men, but merely on account of their being members of the Christian community. The term was first applied to those who lived under the Mosaic dispensation, because the revelation of the divine will and other privileges which they enjoyed, consecrated them, as it were, to God, and was afterwards applied to Christians, because they were consecrated in a similar manner.

33. And there he found a certain man named Æneas, who had kept his bed eight years, being ill of the palsy.

34. And Peter said unto him, Æneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole : arise, and make thy bed, “ Arise and spread thy house thyself,i. e. for the reception of guests ; and he arose immediately.

From the common translation of this verse, we might be led to suppose that Æneas was directed by Peter to rise and make his bed, that he might lie down upon it again immediately; but what occasion for lying down, if he was really cured of his malady? We cannot suppose that the cure was temporary, and only continued for a few hours ; for then it would differ from all the other miracles of the same nature mentioned in the gospels; or, if it should be imagined that he was directed to make his bed for the following night, this, it is observed, does not correspond with the usage in eastern countries, where beds are nothing more than mats laid upon the floor, which are taken up and laid aside in the morning, and spread again at night. It seems much more probable, therefore, that Æneas was directed by Peter, who might intend to eat bread with him, to spread couches or carpets for his guests himself, in order to prove to all that he was perfectly recovered. To spread rooms for entertainments in this manner, is perfectly agreeable to the modern practice of the East, and was probably the ancient custom of the country. For we find an allusion to it in our Lord's time, who tells his disciples, when they asked him where he would have them prepare the passover, that they should find, in a particular place which he pointed out to them, a large upper room furnished, in the original, spread, Mark xiv. 15.; Luke xxii. 12, that is, spread with carpets or couches. Peter seems to have required from Æneas something like what his wife's mother, when cured of a fever, performed for Jesus, for “ she arose, and ministered unto him.''*

35. And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron that had turned to the Lord, saw him.

In this manner this verse ought to be rendered. The writer asserts that all Christians of these two places, being probably assembled together to hear Peter preach, were witnesses of the miraculous cure of Æneas. The common version asserts that all the inhabitants of Lydda and Saron saw him, and became Christians; a change which is very unlikely, considering the prejudices of the Jews; the more especially, as the latter of these two places was not a town, but a district; and is by no means countenanced by the words of the original. Luke now proceeds to give an account of another remarkable miracle, that was performed at the same time.

36. Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, (which by interpretation is called Dorcas :) this woman was full of good works and alms-deeds which she did.

37. And it came to pass in those days that she was sick and died : whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.

38. And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay, 6 that he would not think it much,"t to come to them.

They grounded their request to Peter to come and raise her

* For the above illustration of this passage we are indebted to Mr. Harmer in his Observations on Scripture. Vol. II. p. 66, Note.

Pearce and Wakefield.

from the dead, upon the excellent character of Dorcas, and hoped that he would not think much of going so far, to restore to life so useful a person. The sooner this was done, the more desirable, no doubt, it would be, both to herself and to her friends. But it does not appear that the words of the messengers refer to any despatch with which he was desired to come, but merely to the reluctance which he might be supposed to feel, to confer so great a favour upon an ordinary person.

39. Then Peter arose and went with them: when he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him, weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, " was making," while she was with them.

Being herself, probably, a widow, she employed herself in making clothes for the poor, and what were shown to Peter were the things which she was making when she fell sick and died. In eastern countries, it was usual, and the custom still continues, when a person dies, for the friends and neighbours to assemble in the room where the dead body lies, and to utter loud cries and lamentations. This is considered as an honour to the deceased.* And this was the purpose for which these women were assembled. As they might be noisy and troublesome, Peter thought it prudent, as Jesus had done in a like case, to put them all forth.

40. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down and prayed, begging God, no doubt, to exert his power, and turning him to the body, said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up.

41. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up; and when lie had called the saints, the Christians, and widows, he presented her alive.

He congratulated them, no doubt, on the joyful event which had taken place, and upon the recovery of their friend. The circumstances of this resurrection are highly favourable to the supposition that the mind dies with the body, and is restored to life with it. For the mind of Dorcas remained with her body many hours after death, and would probably have remained with the corpse till the general resurrection, had she not, in the meantime, been raised to life by Peter. So remarkable a miracle was well calculated to make a strong impression upon the minds of all who heard of it, and to convince them of the divine mission of those that preached the gospel. Accordingly we find that it had that effect.

42. And it was known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.

* Harmer's Observations, Vol. II. p. 135, &c.

« 上一頁繼續 »