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mind, than what results from a faithful discharge of the noble virtues of charity and generosity, under the direction of a superior principle, the hope of divine favour? Or what character can be so excellent and happy, as the wise steward of God's bounty towards those who stand in need, diffusing the riches of his goodness, and magnifying his holy name ?-56 Blessed are the merciful ; for they shall obtain mercy.”
After St. Paul had finished his address, « he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him.” How solemn, affecting, and tender, is this farewell! It is not possible even for the nearest relatives and friends to give more sincere and lively proofs of concern. Whence could this be derived ? Whence, but from their common hopes in the Gospel, which had knit their hearts together, and made of the disciples, as it were, one family ? Such admirable effects of harmony and love was the faith of primitive Christians able to produce : how widely different from that apathy and indifference toward our Christian brethren so observable in modern times ! It would certainly be a weakness to expect the same striking effects upon life and morals now, which were then common. But we ought at least to maintain somewhat of that kindness and brotherly love, which our religion was meant to inspire. While it teaches charity to all men, it commands it more especially to the household of faith. Yet we neglect both parts of the precept : our stock of this divine virtue is too small for general uses ; much less will it allow a peculiar and distinguished share to our brethren. Let us look back then frequently upon the ancient examples of true Christian love and charity; and remember that Christ is our head, and we ourselves members one of another. These are sacred bonds of affection, and persuasive motives to sympathy; and they are finely exemplified on the occasion before us, in the fervent prayers of the Apostle for his belored friends whom he is leaving, and in their unfeigned tears for his departure ; « sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more."
The same anxiety abont the Apostle's safety is observable likewise in other places, where he touched on his way to Jerusalem ; thus at Tyre we find certain disciples advising him through the spirit, that is, warning him by the gift of prophecy with which they were endued, not to go up to Jerusalem : knowing that bonds and afflictions there awaited him. Although this admonition was given by the power of the Holy Ghost, yet was it evidently not by way of divine command, but as the expression of concern for his welfare. However he was not moved from his purpose, but continued his journey to Ptolemais, and thence to Cesarea.
While he sojourned here in the house of Philip the Evangelist, he was again obliged to encounter the lively solicitude and entreaties of his brethren for his safety. For Agabus, a prophet, having come down from Judea, “ took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, (according to a custom of declaring things by actions expressive of them) and said, thus saith the Holy Ghost, so shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”-_Which solemn denunciation so alarmed and affected the disciples, that they besought him not to leave them. Then he answered, 66 what mean ye to weep and break my heart ? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus.”_What a fine mixture of tenderness and fortitude! It is impossible to read this passage with any degree of attention, without sentiments of esteem and veneration. We see a great and good man, whose life and happiness were now at stake, willing to meet every danger, and death itself, for the cause of God and Religion. Yet with all his unshaken firmness and resolution in this respect, he is not proof against the tears, and sorrows of luis friends. His heart melts, and sinks almost to breaking : and he is forced in his turn to have recourse to prayers and entreaties, that they might spare him from witnessing their grief, and their too ardent affection. He forgets all the terrors which await him: self, unmoved by every thing but their sympathy. Can we imagine a more noble spectacle ? Compare him with the unfeeling Stoic, and you will easily discern his superior excellence. With more real fortitude, because sustained by a power above all human strength, he did not divest himself of the amiable sympathies and soft endearments of social life. He did not affect a contempt for pain and suffering, nor a disregard to the sorrows of generous friendship. But while he felt these, like other men, his sense of higher motives kept them within just bounds, nor suffered them to change the firm purpose of discharging his duty. Here is the model of a true Christian, who does not root out his affections, but fixes them on proper objects, and chiefly on things above. All the sweet charities of kindred and acquaintance are allowed their just degree of force ; we are only to guard against their excesses ; to take care that they may not tempt us to violate or omit any of the divine commands, or so entirely occupy the mind, as in any manner to prevent our perfect submission to the divine will. For religion not only instructs us in our several duties, but likewise in the relative order to be observed among them ; those which belong to God deservedly presiding, and governing the rest. It will therefore sometimes happen, that we must make painful sacrifices, where our affections are innocent and even virtuous. But let us not therefore despond ; for every such sacrifice cheerfully made shall have its reward : “ the sufferings of the present time are not to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed.”
The disciples, finding the Apostle inexorably fixed upon his purpose, ceased from further importunity, saying with pious resignation, « The will of the Lord be done."*
* What time elapsed between his leaving Ephesus for Macedonia, and his present arrival at Jerusalem, is not agreed upon by able writers : it may have been nearly two years, in which time perhaps he went to Illyricum, and even to Crete. These things are not mentioned in the short account given by St. Luke, but may be collected with some degree of probability, from:. the Epistles of St. Paul.