WHEN the seventy disciples returned from their mission, and related to our Saviour, that the devils were subject to them through his name, he said |I beheld Satan, as lightning fall from heaven.| The design of his undertaking was to overthrow the empire which the adversary of God had established over the human race, and which was upheld by ignorance and depravity. By the one, he enslaved the understandings of men, and by the other their affections. The gospel which the Apostles preached to Jews and Gentiles, dispelled the darkness of the mind, and conquered the rebellion of the heart. Communicating new and just ideas of God, their duty, and their interest, it made thousands revolt from the degrading servitude of Satan, and seek, in the service of Jesus Christ, happiness and spiritual liberty.
Every art had been employed by the God of this world, to give security and permanence to his kingdom. Amidst his deluded and wondering subjects, he appeared in the character of the true God, affecting to possess his most glorious attributes, and imitating his dispensations, with a bold and impious hand. If Jehovah had his oracles and Prophets in the land of Judea, there were not wanting among the Gentiles the arts of divination, pretenders to the knowledge of futurity, and temples in which the Gods returned answers to the inquiries of their worshippers. If the Almighty displayed his wonders before his chosen people, to confirm their faith, and to assure them of safety under the protection of his providence, the religions of heathenism were supported by fabulous prodigies, and the juggling tricks of magicians. But, the reign of imposture was come to an end. The pagan oracles were silenced by the gospel; the Prophets of idolatry were confounded; amidst the splendid train of miracles, which the Apostles were enabled to perform, the wonders of magic became objects of derision; and the magicians themselves, ashamed of an art which they perceived to be both false and impious, confessed the mighty power of the name of Jesus. This triumph of the truth was displayed in the transactions at Ephesus, which are, recorded in the preceding part of the chapter.
But Satan, although defeated, was not subdued. Determined to contend for empire to the last, he employed all his resources to retain that dominion over mankind, which he had long quietly enjoyed. When his frauds were detected and exposed to public contempt, he tried what force could effect. There were still persons in Ephesus attached, from selfish motives, to his cause, by whose aid he hoped to crush the rising interests of Christianity. In the verses now to be explained, we have an account of an attempt to support the reigning system of idolatry by persecution.
Paul was |in labours more abundant;| not indeed exceeding the measure of his duty, but rising above the proportion with which men of ordinary zeal would have been satisfied; and continuing his activity, after his uncommon exertions might have seemed to entitle him to repose. No sooner was one plan happily executed, than his mind was employed in digesting another. His unexhausted benevolence sought new channels of communication. He wished to add other trophies to those which he had already gained to the cross; to carry the light of the gospel into regions which were yet enveloped in darkness; and to diffuse it more extensively in those, where it had begun to shine. Then only should this indefatigable missionary have thought of desisting from his work, when the whole world was converted, and all the Churches were established in the faith, beyond the danger of falling. We are informed, that when |these things were ended,| namely the transactions in Ephesus, related in the preceding verses, |Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia, and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.| Of the execution of this purpose an account is given in the next chapter, from which we learn, that after the uproar, which is to be the subject of the Present Lecture, had ceased, Paul set out for Macedonia; that he afterwards spent three months in Greece; and then, as we find in another chapter, he returned to Jerusalem. His design to visit Rome was also accomplished, but in a way, which, it is probable, he did not at this time foresee; for having been apprehended in Jerusalem by his countrymen, and retained in custody for a considerable time, by the governors of the province, he was sent a prisoner to the imperial city, to be judged at the tribunal of Nero. He appears to have long entertained a desire to see Rome, and to have met with repeated obstructions. |God is my witness,| he says in his Epistle to the Christians of that Pity, |whom I serve with my spirit, in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request (if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God,) to come unto you. Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.| Such being the intention of Paul, he sent Timotheus and Erastus before him to Macedonia; but he himself remained for some time in Asia. It was during this interval, that the tumult took place in Ephesus, which probably made him perform his journey to Macedonia sooner than he had intended.
|And the same time there arose no small stir about that way;| that is, about the gospel which Paul preached, or the new religion which he was propagating. It originated in the alarm of some men at his success, which threatened to deprive them of their gain from the prevailing superstition. Demetrius, by profession a silver-smith, made silver shrines for Diana, who was worshipped in the magnificent temple of Ephesus, and employed several others, in the same lucrative trade. These shrines were small temples, formed after the pattern of the large one, and containing images of the Goddess, which the Ephesians placed in their houses as objects of private devotion, and in the confidence, that they should thus ensure her favour and protection. Amos refers to the same practice among the Israelites, which they had probably learned in Egypt, when he introduces God reproaching them for it in the following words; |But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch, and Chiun your images, the star of your God, which ye made to yourselves.| The temples were formed of a precious metal, and were, no doubt enriched with costly ornaments; and the people, mad upon their idols, grudged no expense to procure a treasure, which they probably valued more than all their other possessions. It is an observation worthy of attention, that false religions have commonly been more successful than the true one, in persuading men to devote their substance to sacred uses; not surely because error is, in its own nature, more efficacious than truth, but because the former accords better with the vanity and corrupt propensities of mankind. While the votaries of idolatry and superstition have cheerfully expended immense sums in erecting temples and churches, in framing and adorning images of Gods and saints, and in maintaining a pompous ritual, many of the professed disciples of Jesus are apt to complain of the trifling demands which are made upon them, for the support of the simple institutions of the gospel. A heathen would have given more in one day for the honour of Jupiter or Diana, than some persons who call themselves Christians, will give in a year for the service of their Saviour. Boasting of our superiority to others in purity of faith and worship, we are far surpassed by them in sincerity and zeal.
Although Demetrius was the first who publicly expressed his apprehensions, yet it cannot be supposed, that his brethren had been unconcerned spectators of the success of the gospel. Interest renders men quick to perceive the first symptoms, which threaten their prosperity. He addressed an audience prepared to adopt and anticipate his sentiments, when having called together the workmen of the like occupation, he said, |Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.| As they all derived profit from the established religion, they would the more readily concur in any measure for supporting it. |Moreover,| he adds, |ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but also throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying, that they be no Gods which are made with hands.| Such was, indeed, the doctrine of Paul, who publicly taught that there was but one God, the Creator of heaven and earth; that the Gods of the Gentiles existed only in the imagination of their worshippers, or were dead men and women, or unclean spirits; and that their images, in which they were supposed to be present, were alike unworthy of divine honours, as gold and silver, wood and stone, in the rudest and most unshapely forms. If this doctrine should prevail, as there was reason to fear, from the great number who had already embraced it, those craftsmen would starve for want of employment. The Ephesians would no longer purchase models of a temple, which they considered as profane, and images of a Goddess, whom they had learned to despise.
The opposition which the gospel encountered in the first ages proceeded not from one order of men alone, but from various classes of society. Persons of different ranks and occupations, united in resisting the progress of a religion which was, or seemed to be, hostile to their different interests and views.
Princes and magistrates were alarmed for the safety of the state, which was supposed to be closely and inseparably connected with the established religion. Religious rites were intermixed with all civil and political transactions, and the public prosperity was ascribed to the favour of the Gods. The introduction of a new religion threatened to subvert the foundation, which supported the mighty empire of Rome. Accordingly, we find, that Christianity was accused of being the cause of the wars, earthquakes, tempests, and pestilences, with which the offended Gods afflicted and desolated the provinces.
Philosophers treated with disdain the doctrines of the gospel, which wanted the ornaments of eloquence, and were repugnant to the principles which they held, upon the subject of God and religion. They were indignant at illiterate men, who presumed to controvert their favourite opinions; and they dreaded the propagation of the new system, as fatal to their interests and their fame. Their wisdom would be derided as folly; their schools would be deserted; and they themselves would be held in contempt, as deserving no other character than that of eloquent babblers.
The priests, the augurs, and the whole train of persons, who were employed in the immediate service of the Gods, were menaced with the total loss of their honours and emoluments. They must fall with the religion of which they were the ministers. The temples would be abandoned; the sacred fire of the altars would be extinguished; gifts and sacrifices would no longer be presented; and they would be disregarded and. execrated, as the supporters of a vile superstition, by which mankind had for ages been deluded.
There still remained a numerous class of persons, who contributed by their various occupations to uphold the worship of the Gods, and depended upon it for subsistence. To this class belonged Demetrius and his brethren, the makers of images, the venders of frankincense, and other substances, which were used in the service of the temples, and those who reared and sold animals for sacrifice. The number of such persons must have been very great, as temples and statues were multiplied in every province; and they composed a powerful body, united by a common interest to oppose the reception of Christianity, which would reduce them to beggary.
|Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.| This was an appeal to a principle, the influence of which is universally felt. About concerns of the greatest magnitude, their religion, their country, the fate of their friends, and the moral improvement of their families, men sometimes discover surprising indifference; but if their temporal interests are endangered, if they are threatened with a reverse of fortune, with the loss or diminution of the affluence and, splendour in which they have been accustomed to live, we see them suddenly roused to vigilance and activity, and making every exertion to ward off the impending calamity. But, a regard to our private good, although the spring of many of the common actions of life, as well as of more splendid achievements, is a principle too low to be on every occasion avowed. Our selfishness is concealed from others under a mask of benevolence; and we even wish to hide it from ourselves. If we can contrive to mix our own interests with those of the public, to connect our honour, our emolument, or our power, with the prosperity of our country, or with the defence of religion, we can prosecute our schemes, under this disguise, with more ardour than we should have ventured to display, had they alone seemed to engage us; and we may hope to be applauded for what should have otherwise subjected us to reproach. Demetrius, therefore, artfully added, |Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying, that they be no Gods which are made with hands: so that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought, but also that the temple of the great Goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.| |The prospect of the loss of employment would justify us in taking measures to defend ourselves; but this is an inferior consideration. Our religion is in danger; and the Divinity who protects our city, and is adored by the surrounding nations, will be abandoned and dishonoured.|
On this occasion, Demetrius acted the part of a dexterous politician. He held forth a pretext well fitted to recommend his cause to the attention and favour of the public. The injury sustained by a body of artificers would hardly have roused the whole city of Ephesus, unless their interest had been associated with objects of general concern. At the same time, it is not improbable, that Demetrius was sincere in his zeal for Diana, whom he had long regarded with sentiments of religious respect; and there is no reason to doubt, that the other craftsmen felt for the honour of their tutelar Goddess, as well as for themselves, when they burst forth into the exclamation mentioned in the following verse. The chief motive was a regard to their own interest, but they might not be conscious of its predominant influence. Men are often not more successful in in imposing upon others, than they are in deceiving themselves. The operations of the human mind are exceedingly subtile and refined. Different motives are frequently so blended together, that it is impossible to separate them, and to assign to each its exact share in our actions; and sometimes the motive which exerts the greatest influence, is of all the least perceived. Many a theological polemic, when opposing heresies and errors, has imagined that he was actuated by the pure love of truth, while he was excited solely by pride of understanding. Many a person, who had persuaded himself, that in defending his principles, and the religious society to which he belonged, he had no other intention than to be faithful to Jesus Christ and his Church, has been as much governed by the spirit of party, as the most unblushing supporter of a political faction. The reproof of our Saviour to his two intemperate disciples, is applicable to not a few zealots for religion: |Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.|
In the present case, we perceive religion serving as a cloak to cover the designs, and as an engine to forward the schemes, of self-interest. The example of Demetrius and his fellows has been diligently imitated. With what apparent zeal for the advancement of piety have establishments been upheld, under which it had long been oppressed, but which rewarded those who defended them, with honours and emoluments? With what clamorous accusations of profaneness and atheism, have they been pursued and hunted down, who attempted to purify the temple of God, by driving out of it buyers and sellers? Have we not heard the cry, |Religion is in danger,| raised by men who never bestowed a serious thought upon religion, and, at the moment when they were loudest in its praises, were living in the open violation of its precepts, because they hoped by the magic of the sound, to inflame the passions of the multitude in favour of that system, to which they owed their greatness?
The union of devotion and interest gave full effect to the speech of Demetrius. It produced a phrensy of religious zeal, and the craftsmen, with one voice, exclaimed in honour of their Goddess, whose divinity Paul had dared to deny, |Great is Diana of the Ephesians.| They seem to have left the house in which they were assembled, and to have rushed into the street, where they raised this cry, as a signal to the worshippers of Diana to appear in her defence. The expedient succeeded. |The whole city was filled with confusion.| The cry was re-echoed from street to street, the alarm became general; the inhabitants deserted their houses; |and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, and Paul's companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.| The theatres in Rome and in the provincial cities, were commonly large buildings, capable of containing many thousand spectators. They were principally intended to exhibit shows and games for the entertainment of the people; but sometimes public business was transacted in them, and criminals were tried, and executed, by being thrown to wild beasts. The Ephesians dragged Gaius and Aristarchus into the theatre, that they might be judged and punished as accomplices of Paul, in the insult which had been offered to Diana.
At this critical moment, Paul would have gone into the theatre to defend himself and his friends, and to embrace this opportunity of addressing the assembled city, upon the important subject of religion. But, while we must admire the courage of the Apostle, who was not dismayed by the presence of danger, and his generous ardour in willingly exposing his life for the honour of the gospel, and the salvation of souls, we may be permitted, in this instance, to call in question his prudence. How could he expect, that an infuriated multitude should listen to him? Was there not reason to apprehend, that without allowing him to open his lips, they would immediately fall upon him, and tear him in pieces? Such are the reflections which occur to us when considering his conduct; and they are confirmed by the opinion of those, who being upon the spot, were better qualified to judge. It appeared to them to be a rash and hazardous attempt. |The disciples suffered him not; and certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.| Being convinced by their representations, he desisted from his purpose.pose.
The next verse contains a just and lively description of a mob suddenly collected. The assembly in the theatre was a scene of absolute confusion. The greater part were ignorant of the cause which had brought them together. The noise in the streets had alarmed them, and seeing others running to the theatre, they had followed. Some cried one thing, and some another. Every man was impatient to speak; every man bawled as loudly as he could; and amidst the universal uproar, no man could be heard.
During this tumult, an attempt was made on the part of the Jews to address the assembly, in order to turn away the torrent of popular indignation from themselves, to Paul and his companions. |And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people.| Luke, indeed, does not affirm, that this was their design; but it is a construction, which may with some probability, be put upon his words. Alexander was a Jew, he was put forward by the Jews, and he would have made his defence to the people. It is implied in this account, that the Jews had been accused, or at least were conscious that they might be accused, of the same crime, with which Paul was charged. Their doctrine with respect to the theological creed of the heathens, exactly agreed with that of the Christians. They pronounced it to be false and idolatrous; and they had reason, therefore, to fear, that, as they were equally guilty in the eyes of the Ephesians, they should be involved in the same condemnation. From this apprehension proceeded the eagerness which they showed to make their defence, by one of their number. There is no doubt, that, if he had been permitted to speak, he would have endeavoured to save himself and his brethren by some artful explanations and distinctions, and to leave the Christians alone exposed to the rage of the multitude.
Whatever was the intention of Alexander, the assembly in the theatre was too much agitated by the impetuosity of passion, to permit him to address them. He was known to be a Jew, and consequently an enemy to the religion which they had come together to support; and, in a transport of zeal, |they all with one voice, about the space of two hours, cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.| By this tumultuous outcry they intended to silence and confound the impious blasphemers of their Goddess. Perhaps, there never was exhibited a more ludicrous scene than the inhabitants of a whole city, vociferating for two hours in succession, the praises of the divinity whom they adored, while for this ebulition of religious fervour no reason could be given, but the attempt of a person of a different persuasion to speak to them. We see to what a height the passions of a multitude may be raised by a trivial incident; with what rapidity the contagion of passion spreads in a crowd; how feeble a barrier truth, justice, and reason oppose to their proceedings; and how ill qualified an assemblage of people without education, without experience, without character, and without responsibility, is, to decide upon questions of politics or religion. The sentences of a mob are passed, as in the present case, by acclamation. The enthusiastic cry, |Great is Diana of the Ephesians,| decided the controversy between the living God, and the dead idols of the Gentiles.
The uproar was quelled by the town-clerk, or secretary of the city, a person of considerable authority, in the Asiatic cities, who having obtained a hearing, delivered the speech recorded in the subsequent verses, of which I shall briefly illustrate the several parts. He begins by expostulating with the people upon the folly of their vehement exclamation in honour of Diana. |Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not, how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great Goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter?| They were wasting their time and strength in proclaiming what every person knew, and no man was disposed to deny. No doubt could be entertained of the veneration in which Diana was held by the Ephesians, who were the guardians of her celebrated temple, which was one of the wonders of the world. He refers to a circumstance which undoubtedly contributed to heighten their devotion; the universal belief that the statue of Diana was not the work of any human artist, but was formed by the hand of Jupiter himself, and bestowed as an invaluable gift upon their city. This tale which had been contrived by the priests, to draw numerous worshippers to the temple, was believed by the unthinking superstitious people. An image of celestial origin must have been supposed to possess peculiar sanctity and virtue.
|Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly. For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of Churches, nor yet blasphemers of your Goddess.| The truth of his first assertion was incontrovertible, namely, that Paul and his companions were not sacrilegious persons or robbers of temples; for so the word should have been translated, because Churches signify, in our language, houses in which Christian worship is performed. There were no Churches in Ephesus, nor, perhaps, at that time, in any part of the world. They had not stolen the sacred treasures from any of the temples. If, by affirming that they were not blasphemers of the Goddess, the town-clerk meant only, that they had not indulged themselves in the use of intemperate and scurrilous language against her, this assertion is equally true as the other. Language offending against propriety, and dictated by passion, did not proceed from the lips of the meek Apostles of Christ. Yet, Paul had undoubtedly maintained, that Diana was a pretended Goddess, and that her image was entitled to no religious veneration; and in the opinion of the Ephesians this was blasphemy. It must, therefore, be acknowledged, that the speaker, wishing by any means to soothe and quiet the minds of the people, did not scrupulously adhere to the truth, but gave such a representation as was best calculated to accomplish his purpose.
Of the real cause of this popular commotion, he seems to have been apprized, and to have considered it as originating in a personal quarrel of Demetrius and the workmen with Paul. |If Demetrius and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies; let them implead one another.| Courts of law were appointed to take cognizance of private causes, before which the parties concerned might bring forward their accusations and defences; but these were not subjects of sufficient importance to engage the attention of the citizens at large. If Paul or any other person was guilty of a public offence, he should be called to account before an assembly convened by lawful authority, and not in an irregular and riotous manner. |But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined In a lawful assembly.| His last argument he addressed to their fears, reminding them that they were in danger of being punished for their present disorderly procedure; and the penalty might extend not only to the individuals who had caused the insurrection, but to the whole city, which would be subjected to a fine, or deprived of its privileges. The jealousy of the Roman government, which held the sovereignty of the Asiatic provinces by the right of conquest, was ready to repress, with vigour and severity, every symptom of disaffection, and every movement tending to disturb that settled order, which it is the interest of despotism to preserve. |For we are in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse.|
By this speech, which was conducted with much prudence and address, the fury of the people was calmed, and they were persuaded to return peaceably to their homes. Thus God delivered Paul and his companions, from the perilous circumstances in which they were placed. Means and instruments are never wanting, by which he may preserve his faithful servants in the discharge of their duty, without any miraculous interposition. There is no reason to suppose, that the town-clerk of Ephesus was a friend to Christianity. But, he was alarmed, as every wise man will be, at the probable consequence of a popular tumult; he wished no innocent person to suffer, not even the guilty to be condemned without a trial, and to fall victims to the fury of a mob; and while he interposed solely from motives of justice and humanity, and a regard to the public peace, Providence made use of him for the protection of Paul, who had yet many important services to perform.
The passage which has been illustrated, suggests the following reflections.
First, The opposition which has been made in past ages to the gospel, has proceeded from the depraved passions of men, their avarice, their ambition, and their love of earthly pleasures. Its adversaries have not been the sincere friends of truth and virtue, but the slaves of prejudice, and the votaries of vice. The uproar in Ephesus was excited by some mercenary artificers, who worshipped no God with so much ardour as the God of riches. Such opposition, as I have remarked in a former Lecture, reflects honour upon Christianity. Had it been a human contrivance, it would have been adapted, like other impostures, to the corrupt inclinations of mankind. It would have gratified the predominant propensities of the heart; and would have made it the interest of the licentious and the worldly to embrace it. Rejected and calumniated as it has been, it appears to be a pure emanation from that holy Being, whom sinners secretly dislike, although they may profess to love and venerate him. The enemies of our religion, in order to justify their opposition, have advanced many false accusations against it. Malignity has not been sparing of its usual arts, falsehood and misrepresentation. It cannot be justly charged with disturbing the peace of society, which it secures more effectually than the wisest laws, and the most vigilant administration, by impressing upon the heart the purest lessons of morality. It cannot be justly charged with impairing domestic happiness, since, wherever it is sincerely believed, it establishes the empire of love. It cannot be justly charged with impeding the business and the duties of life; for it inculcates active benevolence, and teaches us to acquit ourselves with fidelity in every relation. What, then, is the evil which it has done? It has abolished certain institutions, which originated in the cruelty and licentiousness of mankind; it has overthrown establishments, under which imposture flourished; it has restrained vices, which were the sources of private gratification, and public misery.
Secondly, The sacred name of religion has been prostituted to serve the most infamous purposes. It was the pretext, under which Demetrius and his accomplices concealed their design, to secure the gain which they derived from the folly and delusion of their countrymen. In the name of religion, priests and monks have amassed enormous wealth, and guarded against intrusion those dark retreats, in which they wallowed in the grossest sensuality. In the name of religion, conquerors have desolated the earth, and made havock of the human race to gratify their avarice and ambition. In the name of religion, persecutors have committed cruelties, at which every feeling of our nature revolts. Scaffolds have streamed with blood; fires have blazed with victims; the dwellings of the innocent have been plundered and razed to the ground; and the houseless sufferers have been driven into foreign lands, by demons in human shape, pretending to be actuated by zeal for the glory of God. In the name of religion, Churches have corrupted the doctrines and institutions of the gospel; repealed the ordinances of heaven; imposed their own unhallowed commands upon the consciences of their subjects; and fulminated excommunications against the pious and sincere. The language of all such persons has been, even at the time when they were perpetrating the greatest crimes |Come, see our zeal for the Lord.|
Thirdly, The concurrence of a multitude in support of a cause, is no proof of its justice. Truth is not to be decided by numbers. In the passage which has been explained, we see the whole city of Ephesus defending the honour of their Goddess Diana against the claims of the living God, to be the sole object of their adoration. But, this is not a solitary instance. In the old world, Noah alone was found faithful, while the rest of mankind had corrupted their ways. In the wilderness, all the Israelites rebelled except Caleb and Joshua. When our Saviour appeared upon earth, how few of the Jews acknowledged him to be the Messiah? And in the dark ages, did not |all the world wonder after the beast?| The maxim, that the voice of the people is the voice of God, is, for the most part, evidently false, and, in no case, can be admitted without many limitations. It is, indeed, universally true, that the resolutions and proceedings of the multitude are the will of Providence, which permits and overrules them for its own wise and holy ends, or that they are consistent with the divine decrees, and are the means of executing them: but in this view, the maxim is vague, and of no value, because it implies nothing more than what may be affirmed of the counsels and operations of devils. What, in most cases, is the voice of the people but the voice of thoughtlessness, prejudice, and passion? What is it, in fact, but the voice of a few artful men, who make use of the people as the blind instruments of accomplishing their private designs? They speak as they are directed and act as they are impelled.
Lastly, God reigns, and carries on the designs of his government, amidst the commotions of the world. He rules not only over the unconscious elements, the lightning, the wind, and the rain, but likewise over the passions of men. When these passions are most headstrong and impetuous, he controls their fury, directs their course, and suffers them not to proceed beyond the limits which he has prescribed to them. In the uproar at Ephesus, he preserved the life of Paul and his companions, first by the confusion of the people, and then by the seasonable interference of a person of prudence and authority, who was chiefly influenced by a regard to the peace of the city. Let us not be dismayed, although the pillars of the earth should be shaken, and all things should seem to be out of course. The interests of truth and righteousness are safe, under the protecting care of their Almighty Patron. |The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice, the floods lift up their waves. The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.|