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voted to superstition and idolatry: the Athenians wor. shipped a great variety of false deities, Jupiter, Juno, &c. Paul with a benevolent concern beheld this famous city boasting indeed of its freedom, but under the very worst kind of slavery; he therefore resolved to take every opportunity of publishing the glad tidings of salvation there; and for this purpose he discourses freely on the subject with the Jews in their synagogues, and with the Athenians in their places of public resort.
* “ There was amongst the Athenians many sects of philosophers. Each of these had his disciples or followers, to whom he taught his particular opinions. Whoever pretended to learning or virtue, the greatest magistrates, generals, and even kings, ranged themselves under their discipline, and were trained in their schools. All their sects made it a maxim not to disturb the popular worship of established religion; but under these limita. tions they taught very freely whatever they pleased, and no religious opinions were more warmly supported than those which they delivered were by their followers. Each of these sects maintained some notions directly opposite to those of the Gospel, and none believed in the resurrection of the dead. St. Paul had before been engaged with many of the followers of these different sects ; but by visiting Athens, he exposed his doctrine to the particular examination of the philosophers who presided over them. The first he had to contend with were the Epicureans and Stoicks. The former of these entirely denied Divine Providence, and held the world to be merely the effect of chance; asserting pleasure to be man's chief good, and limiting his existence to the present state. And the latter maintained the doctrine
* Lord Lyttelton on St. Paul's Conversion.
of an universal necessity, and proudly exalted their Wise Men, as if they were in some respects superior to the Deity himself. Some of these pretended philosophers were present at Paul's discourses and finding his doctrine s0 contrary to their notions, they spoke of him as a triAling fellow, a mere babbler of words without meaning: Others said, he is a proclaimer of foreign deities, because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. As a great crowd gathered about Paul, they conducted him to a celebrated hill near the citadel, which was called Mars Hill, or the Areopagus. At this place was the hall of justice, where the magistrates sat; and here also, as in a theatre, learned men used to meet to communi. cate their opinions. The court of justice which sat here was famous for its equity. If any denied a God, he liable to the censure of the judges; nor might any new Deity be admitted without their approbation. Hither they brought Paul, not to be tried as a criminal, but that his doctrine might undergo a public examinaation. When he was come thither they applied unto him, saying, May we know what this new doctrine whereof thou speakest, is ? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. Now this was quite agreeable to the Athenians in general, as well as to the strangers who came to study at Athens ; many of whom, having great leisure, were in perpetual search of something new, which might amuse their speculative and curious tempers.” If Paul had had nothing to trust to but his own natural faculties, his own understanding, knowledge, and eloquence, as he was unacquainted with the kind of learning taught at Athens, he would certainly have been intimidated from declaring any new doctrine before such a numerous assembly of persons prejudiced against him: but trusting
in the aid of the HOLY SPIRIT, he boldly stood up in the middle of the Areopagus, and addressed them as follows: “Yę men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For, as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscrip·tion, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. GOD that made the world, and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth; and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation: that they should seek the LORD, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us : for in him we live, and move, and have our be. ing: as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the God. head is like unto gold, or silver, or stone graven by art, or man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at: but now commandeth all men every where to repent; because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” When Paul had proceeded so far as to men. tion a resurrection of the dead, he was interrupted, some of his audience ridiculing it, and others, satisfied for the present, coldly promised to hear him upon the subject another time; so Paul, finding the greatest part of the assembly resolved to resist his doctrine, de
parted from Mars Hill. But though his discourse was so generally slighted, some few men adhered to him, amongst whom was Dionysius the Areopagite, a magistrate of great honour and dignity; and also a woman of considerable rank in the city, and some others not particularly mentioned.
* “ The prudence of St. Paul's behaviour on this occasion was very remarkable, and proved that he was neither an impostor nor an enthusiast. Had he been the fermer he would have retracted his doctrine to save his life. Had he been the latter, he would have lost his life without trying to save it by innocent means; but he did neither the one nor the other. He availed him. self of an altar which he had found in the city inscribed to the UNKNOWN God, and pleaded, that he did not propose to them the worship of any new God, but only explained to them one whom their government had already received. By this he avoided the law, and escaped being condemned by the Areopagus, without departing in the least from the truth of the Gospel, or violating the honour of God."
We find that in addressing himself to Pagans, Paul made use of very different arguments to what he employed when he preached to the Jews. Instead of talking of the Law, the Prophets, and the Messiah, he endeavoured to prove, in opposition to their notions of a plurality of Gods, that there was one SUPREME BEING, the Maker of all things, who originally created the human species, and caused all succeeding nations to pro. ceed from them, which were now so increased as to cover the face of the earth; that he had allotted to each individual the time of his living in the world, and the
* Lord Lyttelton.
nlaces he should inhabit, and given them all Reason, which would naturally incline them to seek after him, and he might, if properly sought, be easily found; for their own existence proved that there certainly must be a supreme cause, by whom all things were produced. Therefore, if they considered themselves as the offspring of God, He must consequently be more excellent than themselves; and it must be a dishonour to represent Him by silver and gold, wood and stone, materials greatly inferior to man.
He then told them, that God had for a long time overlooked those corruptions in worship, which proceeded in some measure from ignorance : but he now called upon
men to correct these irregular ideas, and govern themselves by more rational and exalted views of religion ; and expressly commanded “ all to whom the Gospel should be made known to repent, as they regarded their eternal salvation; because he had appointed a day in which he would judge the world, and pass a final sentence of happiness or misery as each individual should deserve: which he would do by that Man whom he had ordained, whom he had raised from the dead for that purpose."
Here the Apostle was interrupted, or it is likely that, having taught them repentance towards God he would have taught them also faith in Jesus Christ, and declared his union with God.
We may perceive how excellently calculated this discourse was to confute the opinions of the Epicureans and Stoicks; but the pride of human wisdom blinded their understandings. It certainly was their duty to have listened attentively, and to have examined seriously a doctrine which professed to have for its author the Su