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ought to have engaged his most serious attention. He had now a fine opportunity to gain the necessary information. One of the most noted preachers of christianity was brought before him and accused for his doctrine. This preacher was now opening his mouth to explain and defend his religion. Would Gallio have had a little patience, he might have heard what it was, and on what foundation it stood, and might soon have been able to judge whether he ought to become a christian. But he abruptly dismissed the business ; not merely because he would not interefere in a case foreign to his judicial character, but because it was a matter of religion, in which he was not disposed to concern himself either as a magistrate or a man.
The Greeks resented the abuse which the Jews had offered to Paul. And finding that the governor would not patronize the Jews, they immediately seized Sosthenes, the head of the Jewish faction, and beat' him before the judgment seat. Gallio looked silently on; he would not use his authority so far as to preserve peace and order in his own presence.
He cared for none of these things. Religion, he saw, was the object of the quarrel. It was a matter too low for his interference. He would leave the parties to fight it out among themselves.
We see in these Jews the extravagances of a blind, religious zeal. We see in the Greeks the mischievous effects of vain curiosity and self-conceit. And in Gallio we see a proud indifference to all religion. It will be useful to employ a few thoughts on each of these tempers.
I. We will consider the extravagance of that religious zeal which actuated the Jews.
Bigotted to their own sentiments and usages, they despised all who embraced not the same, and persecuted all who dared to oppose them, or even to dissent from them. The apostle says, “ They killed the Lord Jesus, and have persecuted us. They please not God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved.” When Paul preached the doctrines of Christ to the Jews in Corinth, influenced by this spirit of bigotry, they opposed themselves and blasphemed; rose against him tumultuously, and brought him before the magistrate for teaching doctrines contrary to their law. They gloried in their zeal for God, which prompted them so violently to oppose a man, who taught doctrines so different from their own. They trusted in themselves that they were righteous, because they could bear no contradiction to their own religious opinions and ceremonial usages. But in all their zeal there was nothing of the spirit of true religion. This is always meek and humble, peaceable and benevolent.
Godly zeal in religious matters is concerned to know what is truth. It entertains a modest self-distrust in all doubtful cases. It is swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. It will, indeed, contend earnestly for the truth; but will contend with a calm, not with a violent spirit. It will allow others the privilege which it claims for itself. It is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits. The zeal, which is accompanied with bitter envying and strife, descendeth not from above, but proceedeth from an earthly, carnal and infernal source.
In the second place, we will attend to the conduet of these Greeks. They were of a different cast from the Jews. They had not the same contracted bigotry; but they had more of a vain curiosity. And this led them into the same extravagance, as appeared in the Jews. They criminated each other, and yet both acted alike.
The Greeks sought after wisdom; after new schemes of philosophy-new deities–new forms of worship. They were fond of hearing and telling something new. They were eager to hear Paul, because they imagined he would bring to their ears some novel sentiments, which might amuse and entertain them. And when they found that the Jews were endeavoring to stop his mouth, mortified at the disappointment, they used Sosthenes, the Jewish leader, with the same violence, as the Jews had before offered to Paul. Yea, they carried the matter farther; they beat the ruler of the synagogue in the presence of the court. They despised the narrow spirit of the Jews, and valued themselves on that liberality which was willing to hear what every man had to say. And yet they were as remote, as the bigotted Jews, from that peace, candor and condescension which is the spirit of true religion. They could persecute a Jew for not allowing Paul to preach, as readily as the Jews persecuted the apostle for preaching contrary to their sentiments. They were as violent against the Jewish bigotry, as the Jews were against Paul's christianity. They ran into the same excess, which they condemned in others.
True liberality, in this case, would have pitied these blinded zealots, and labored to bring them to a better temper. It would, indeed, have interposed to support the injured apostle; but it would not have retaliated on his opposers the violence which they offered to him. A wise man and one endued with knowledge, will shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
You see, that men may be zealous about things which relate to religion, and yet have nothing of that temper, which essentially belongs to religion. It is, therefore, important, that every man carefully examine his own heart.
If you have no concern at all about religion, there is little need of examination. Your character is obvious. But, perhaps you are not indifferent. You feel a warm displeasure against the men who differ from you in the doctrines and forms of religion. You take all opportunities to speak against them; to malign their persons, to discredit their opinions and to vindicate your own; and you think a love of truth and virtue reigns in your heart, because you cannot bear them that are evil. But perhaps all this may proceed from pride, envy, self-confidence and worldly affection. Do you not feel and conduct in the same manner toward those who oppose your favorite sentiments in politicks ? If you would know whether your zeal is pious, enquire whether you are zealous to discover truth-to detect your own errors—to amend your own tempers—to maintain good works-whether your zeal against the sins and errors of other men be mixed with that charity, which suffers long and is kind, and which labors rather to promote their virtue, than to wound their character.—You readily embrace every opportunity to hear the word preached. So far is well. But are your motives pious ? Are you doers as well as hearers of the word ? Do you lay aside all guile and hypocrisy, and receive the word with meekness and self-application? These Greeks were eager to hear Paul preach, but were little influenced by that gospel which he preached. Curiosity and a love of novelty were their motives. It was not the spirit of the gospel which prompted their outrage on Sosthenes. It is wise to examine what motive influences you. Is it a desire to know your hearts, your duty, and
your character—to be instructed and quickened in the way of salvation ? Or is it a desire to hear some curious speculations—to know what will be said on some controverted points, or to follow the custom of the times? You may be pleased with a sound argument, a good style, and an agreeable manner, and yet have no relish for truth. If it be a love of the gospel which governs you, you will be as careful to live by it every day, as you are to hear it one day in seven. Religion is consistent with itself. If it rules your heart, it will make you holy in all manner of conversation.
We see further, that it is no uncommon thing for men to run into the same absurdities, which they condemn in others. The Jews complained of the oppressions of the Roman government, and
yet would subject Paul to this government. They denied the right of the Romans to rule over them, and yet would prosecute this, their countryman, in a Roman court. The Greeks condemned the violence with which the Jews proceeded against Paul, and at the same time treated the Jews with greater violence. We easily see faults in others, but are often blind to our own. Let as watch over ourselves, review our conduct, and enquire whether it be such as we should approve in another-such as we should justify in an enemy, or recommend to a friend. In a case of doubt, let us ask ourselves, what advice, in a similar case, we would give to a son, or brother. Thus we may often judge of our ownselves, what is right.
I proceed, thirdly, to consider that spirit of carelessness which appeared in Gallio.
He despised the bigotry of the Jew, and the pride of the Greek. He saw their dispute rise to blows, but took no measures to terninate it. He felt superior to such matters as they were contending about. But unhappily, poor man, he was as indifferent to the doctrine of salvation preached by Paul, as he was to the philosophy of the Greeks, and the ceremonies of the Jews. He cared for none of these things. He would neither interpose to part the contending Jews and Greeks, nor condescend to hear Paul explain and defend his religion. We condemn his carelessness, as much as he despised the vanity and the obstinacy of the others. And how many among us are chargeable with the same indifference in religion-the same carelessness about their souls.
There is, in some, an indifference to all religion. Though they think it well for society, that some apprehensions of a Deity and a future judgment, and some forms of worship should be maintained; yet to religion, considered as the means of rendering us acceptable to the Deity, and preparing us for future blessedness, they pay no attention. But if we are rational and immortal beings, religion must infinitely concern us all ; and every man must be indispensably bound to believe its truth and divinity, understand its doctrines and precepts, and govern his heart and life by them.
There are few who profess to disbelieve the gospel ; and yet there are many who live as if they disbelieved it. But what advantage can they expect from it without a care to live agreeably to it? And where is their consistency in assenting to it as true, and contradicting it in practice? Will such a faith save them ? Their faith, being without works, is dead.
There is such a thing as a man's being careless and easy in his mind, when he has no persuasion of present safety. If convictions of sin, and apprehensions of judgment, now and then, press upon them, they smother or divert them by the employments, or amusements of the world, and compose their minds to the former state of indifference.
Delay is carelessness. For now is the day of salvation. The future is not our's. We know not what shall be on the morrow. If we dare not dismiss all thoughts of religion, we ought to attend to it now. If it be too important to be finally neglected, it is too important to be postponed to another day.
They who rashly expose themselves to temptations, or run into the known path of iniquity, discover as great carelessness, as the man mentioned in our text. He was careless about religion in general. He little concerned himself whether there was such a