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I see nothing more to be learnt from the scriptures concerning the state of this church, except the instructive anecdote in the epistle to Philemon. This man (a Colossian christian) had a Nave, one Onesimus, who deserted from his master, probably not without some depredations of his property, and wandered to Rome. That, like all great cities, was the sink which received the conAuence of various vices and crimes. There the wonderful Grace of God seized his heart. Providence brought him to hear Paul preach, which we have seen he did continually for two years in his imprisonment. Though former means of instruction under his christian master had failed, now at length his eyes were opened, and he became a christian indeed. Paul would have found him an useful asistant at Rome, but thought it most proper to send him back to his master at Colosse, which he does with a short letter; a masterpiece it is of christian politeness. In his Coloffian epistle he mentions him also as a faithful and beloved brother. What Divine Grace can do for men, even for Naves whom proud philosophers despised, appears from this instance,

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SECTION XIV.

THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF, ASIA,

T

HERE are some countries to which we un

derstand that the gospel was carried during the first out-pouring of the Holy Spirit, which are incidentally mentioned without any detail of facts.

Extensive as we have feen from St. Luke's narrative the labours of the Apostle were, it is evident from the epistles, that he is far from relating the whole. We cannot learn, for instance, from the Acts, when Paul visited Crete. Yet the short epiftle to Titus, whom he left there with episcopal authority to ordain ministers in every city, and to regulate the churches, shews that that ifand of an hundred cities had been considerably evangelized, and many among a people proverbially deceitful, ferocious, and intemperate, had received the wholesome yoke of Christ.

And though I cannot but think, that the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Afia, and Bithynia, to whom St. Peter addresses his two epistles, must mean the Jews of those countries, yet their conversion would doubtless be attended with that of many Gentiles. Of three of these we know nothing particularly; the work of God in Galatia has been reviewed, and Asia propria alone remains now to be considered, so far as I can discover, of all the evangelized regions mentioned in scripturehistory.

It was on his first departure from Corinth, that Paul first visited Ephesust, the ærst named of the

seven ☆ Afts xviii. 19.

seyen churches of Alia, to whom St. John dedin cates the book of the Revelation. His first stay was short, but the impression made on his hearers must have been remarkably great, as they pressed his longer continuance among them. He left however Aquila and Priscilla with them, whose labours were afterwards assisted by Apollos.

Paul himself returning to Ephesus, baptized in the name of Jesus about twelve disciples, who had hitherto received only John's baptism *. Froin this circumstance we learn, that from the first preaching of the Baptist nothing had been done in vain. The imperfect elements of that harbinger of Christ had paved the way for clearer discoveries, and a variety of preparatory works had tended to ripen the church of God into the fulness of light and holiness.

Paul preached three months in the Jewish synagogue at Ephesus, till the usual perverseness of the Jews induced him to desist, and to form the converts into a distinct church. One Tyrannus lent his school for two years, in which he daily ministered, And the whole region of Asia propria had at different times an opportunity of hearing the gospel.

In no place does the word of God seem so much to have triumphed as at Ephesus. No less numerous than those of Corinth, the believers were much more fpiritual. The work of conversion was deep, vigorous, and soul-transforming to a great degree. Many, struck with the horror of former crimes, made an open confeffion; and many, who had dealt in the abominations of forcery, now shewed their fincere deteftation of them by burning their books before all men, the price of which aincunted to a large sum. “So mighti

“ ly * Acts xix.

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" ly grew the word of God, and prevailed.” Thus triumphs the sacred historian. Satan must have trembled for his kingdom; the emptiness of all the systems of philosophy appeared no less palpable, than the flagitiouiness of vice, and the enormities of idolatry. The spiritual power of Jesus was never seen in a stronger light, since the day of Pentecost, and the venal priesthood of Diana, the celebrated goddefs of Ephesus, apprehended the total ruin of their hierarchy.

No place on earth was more devoted to idolatry. A number of ingenious artists were en: riched by making silver shrines for Diana. They fele a sensible diminution of their coininerce, and found themselves bound by interest to support the credit of the goddess. Much people through almost all Alia had been induced to believe, that manufactured gods were mere nothings; and it feemed high time to make some strong efforts in favour of the declining fuperftition. They soon prevailed fo far as to fill the city with tumult, and hurried two of Paul's companions with them into the theatre, where the whole mob assembled. The daring spirit of Paul would have led him into the same place. His christian friends interposed, and even some of the Aliarchs, persons who presided over the games, who had a personal esteem for the man, kindly dissuaded him. His desire feems not void of rashness, but it was the rashness of an hero, vexed to the soul to think that Gaius and Aristarchus, his two friends, were likely to suffer in his absence. Now I apprehend was that sealon of extrenie distress, which he felt in Asia, which he describes so pathetically* Human resources failed, and God alone he learnt could support him. The prudent and eloquent

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2 Cor. viii, 9, 10.

harangué of a magistrate called the town-clerk, was the providential instrument of his deliverance. He calmed the spirits of the Ephesians, and filenced the uproar ; after which Paul affectionately embraced the disciples, and left Ephesus. Three years he had laboured with great success, and left pastors to superintend that and the neighbouring churches. But he foresaw with grief, as he afterwards told these pastors in a very pathetic address, when he had fent for them to Miletus *, that their present purity would not conuinue unftained. Wolves would enter among them to devour the flock, and among them elves heretical perverseness would find countenance, and produce pernicious feparations. He did all however which man can do, warned them of the danger, and exhorted them to the persevering discharge of their duty.

The parting between the Apostle and these ministers was of the most moving kind; but the elegant and affecting narrative of St. Luke is befure the reader. The corruption of this excellent church seems not however to have taken place, when he wrote to them his epiftle. It is full of instruction, and, next to that to the Ro. mans, may be looked on as a most admirable fyitein of divinity. It has this remarkable recoinmendation, that it will serve for any church and for any age. Not a vestige appears in it of any thing miraculous, or exclusively primitive. The controversies of the christian worl: concerning doctrine would soon be decided, it men would submit to be taught by the simple, litera', and grammatical meaning of this short treatise. Every thing of doctrine and of duty is in it, and what the

gospel * Aets xx.

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