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CHAPTERS XIX, XX, AND PART OF XXI.
T St. Paul's return to Ephesus, he found other disciples beside Apollos, who had received only the baptism of John, and had not even heard of any gifts of the Holy Ghost conferred upon the faithful and having explained the nature of that baptism, which was to repentance and faith in Christ, and nothing more, he gives them to understand that another much more excellent was required, by which they should be made partakers of the Holy Ghost. "When they heard this, they were bap tized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they spake with tongues and prophesied."
The history goes on to relate his preaching for the space of three months in the Jewish synagogue, of his departing thence on account of their hardness of heart, and removing his disciples to the school of one Tyrannus, who was probably a converted Gentile. "And this continued by the
space of two years, so that all they who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks."-We may observe here by the way upon the fair and wise conduct of St. Paul and the other Apostles; whose preaching was not in secret and obscure places, but in the greatest cities of the known world, abounding with learning, talents, and philosophy; such as Antioch, Corinth, Athens, Ephesus, Rome. And it was not merely to the ignorant multitude they addressed themselves in those places, but to all indiscriminately, rich and poor, great and small, knowing and unlearned: that while they instructed every one, they might not seem to shrink from the most sagacious and even malicious inquiry. We have already seen what stay St. Paul made at some of the cities now mentioned; at Ephesus it was of very considerable length, for this was the metropolis of Proconsular Asia, and in the time of the Apostles retained a great part of its former grandeur; being not only in itself large and populous, but frequented by multitudes from other parts to view the celebrated temple of Diana, which was reckoned among the wonders of the world. No scene therefore could be more fit for this active Apostle; and accordingly we find, that by his preaching and miracles, the word of God here mightily grew and prevailed.
In the 13th verse we read of certain Jews, accustomed to go about from place to place for the purpose of exorcising, that is, dispossessing of evil spirits by invoking the name of God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob which form of words, their art, they pre
as well as the principles of tended to derive from Solomon. These men, perceiving the ease and certainty, with which St. Paul performed all his miracles, took upon them to adjure evil spirits by the name of the Lord Jesus: "they were sons of one Sceva, a Jew and chief of the priests, which did so." But their audacious profanation of this sacred name, in which they had no faith, and had usurped it merely to gain the greater credit to their magical incantations, was not long suffered to go unpunished for the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man, in whom the evil spirit was, leaped on them, and overcame them," so that they fled naked and wounded. In which passage there is a clear distinction made between the spirit and the man possessed: it is therefore a plain and strong argument against those writers, who will have demoniacs to mean persons labouring under common diseases, such as convulsions, epilepsy, or the like. It may possibly be asked, whether those exorcists or magicians did really dispossess, or whether their art was a mere imposture? To give a satisfactory answer to this
question, I profess myself unable: nor does it ap pear of any material consequence to the Christian faith, which supposition be contended for. Neither Scripture, nor any other credible history, (for the account given of them by Josephus, has every appearance of fable) has clearly ascertained the point. We may therefore humbly rest in our ignorance; without charging those who believe them with credulity, or those who do not, with too great freedom of thinking. For as it would be great presumption to say, that God may not give to evil spirits a certain degree of power over the minds and bodies of men, and at the same time enable such persons, as have full confidence in his name, to overcome them; so it is highly probable, that under colour of these things, whether true or false, a multitude of frauds would be practised by art, collusion, the force of immagination, and other means. And I am much more inclined to think this to have been the case in the present instance at least, if not universally because had those sons of Sceva not experienced failures in their art, they had not resorted to a different method of success. And indeed their invoking of the name of Jesus, is sufficient evidence of their being gross impostors in that respect; which makes it very reasonable to conclude them so in others likewise.
The severe and public punishment inflicted by the demoniac upon those exorcising Jews, had so powerful an effect upon both Jews and Gentiles dwelling at Ephesus, that many who had addicted themselves to the study of magic, were converted to the faith, confessed their evil practices, "brought their books together, and burned them before all men."--Providentially the remarkable incident, which caused this reformation, could not have happened in a more convenient place for Ephesus so far exceeded all other places in magical arts, that charms and spells were sometimes called Ephesian Letters.
The next point, deserving our consideration, is the tumult which arose at Ephesus, a little before St. Paul left it, about his doctrines. It was raised by a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines for Diana.”—This was a very gainful occupation; because they used to carry in procession through the city small shrines, with the image of the goddess inclosed in them, yet visible through the open folding doors: and of the vast numbers who visited the temple, all, who could afford the expense, took home with them these models of this beautiful scructure, to prove their veneration, and assist their devotion. Demetrius, perceiving how fatal to this idolatrous worship was the pure religion preached by St. Paul, called together those concerned in his craft or employment; and