Acts 21

* Paul's voyage towards Jerusalem. (1-7) Paul at Cesarea. The

prophecy of Agabus, Paul at Jerusalem. (8-18) He is persuaded to

join in ceremonial observances. (19-26) Being in danger from the

Jews, he is rescued by the Romans. (27-40)

1-7 Providence must be acknowledged when our affairs go on

well. Wherever Paul came, he inquired what disciples were there,

and found them out. Foreseeing his troubles, from love to him,

and concern for the church, they wrongly thought it would be

most for the glory of God that he should continue at liberty;

but their earnestness to dissuade him from it, renders his pious

resolution the more illustrious. He has taught us by example, as

well as by rule, to pray always, to pray without ceasing. Their

last farewell was sweetened with prayer.
8-18 Paul had express warning of his troubles, that when they

came, they might be no surprise or terror to him. The general

notice given us, that through much tribulation we must enter

into the kingdom of God, should be of the same use to us. Their

weeping began to weaken and slacken his resolution Has not our

Master told us to take up our cross? It was a trouble to him,

that they should so earnestly press him to do that in which he

could not gratify them without wronging his conscience. When we

see trouble coming, it becomes us to say, not only, The will of

the Lord must be done, and there is no remedy; but, Let the will

of the Lord be done; for his will is his wisdom, and he doeth

all according to the counsel of it. When a trouble is come, this

must allay our griefs, that the will of the Lord is done; when

we see it coming, this must silence our fears, that the will of

the Lord shall be done; and we ought to say, Amen, let it be

done. It is honourable to be an old disciple of Jesus Christ, to

have been enabled by the grace of God to continue long in a

course of duty, stedfast in the faith, growing more and more

experienced, to a good old age. And with these old disciples one

would choose to lodge; for the multitude of their years shall

teach wisdom. Many brethren at Jerusalem received Paul gladly.

We think, perhaps, that if we had him among us, we should gladly

receive him; but we should not, if, having his doctrine, we do

not gladly receive that.
19-26 Paul ascribed all his success to God, and to God they

gave the praise. God had honoured him more than any of the

apostles, yet they did not envy him; but on the contrary,

glorified the Lord. They could not do more to encourage Paul to

go on cheerfully in his work. James and the elders of the church

at Jerusalem, asked Paul to gratify the believing Jews, by some

compliance with the ceremonial law. They thought it was prudent

in him to conform thus far. It was great weakness to be so fond

of the shadows, when the substance was come. The religion Paul

preached, tended not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. He

preached Christ, the end of the law for righteousness, and

repentance and faith, in which we are to make great use of the

law. The weakness and evil of the human heart strongly appear,

when we consider how many, even of the disciples of Christ, had

not due regard to the most eminent minister that even lived. Not

the excellence of his character, nor the success with which God

blessed his labours, could gain their esteem and affection,

seeing that he did not render the same respect as themselves to

mere ceremonial observances. How watchful should we be against

prejudices! The apostles were not free from blame in all they

did; and it would be hard to defend Paul from the charge of

giving way too much in this matter. It is vain to attempt to

court the favour of zealots, or bigots to a party. This

compliance of Paul did not answer, for the very thing by which

he hoped to pacify the Jews, provoked them, and brought him into

trouble. But the all-wise God overruled both their advice and

Paul's compliance with it, to serve a better purpose than was

intended. It was in vain to think of pleasing men who would be

pleased with nothing but the rooting out of Christianity.

Integrity and uprightness will be more likely to preserve us

than insincere compliances. And it should warn us not to press

men to doing what is contrary to their own judgment to oblige

27-40 In the temple, where Paul should have been protected as

in a place of safety, he was violently set upon. They falsely

charged him with ill doctrine and ill practice against the

Mosaic ceremonies. It is no new thing for those who mean

honestly and act regularly, to have things laid to their charge

which they know not and never thought of. It is common for the

wise and good to have that charged against them by malicious

people, with which they thought to have obliged them. God often

makes those a protection to his people, who have no affection to

them, but only have compassion for sufferers, and regard to the

public peace. And here see what false, mistaken notions of good

people and good ministers, many run away with. But God

seasonably interposes for the safety of his servants, from

wicked and unreasonable men; and gives them opportunities to

speak for themselves, to plead for the Redeemer, and to spread

abroad his glorious gospel.
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