Soon the whole city was in disarray. They rushed together into the theatre, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia.
shrines were miniature models of the temple, containing a representation of the statue of the goddess," and they were chiefly made for the visitors to take away as memorials of their visit. "There was a sacred month at Ephesus - the month of Diana - when a great religious gathering took place to celebrate the public games in honor of the goddess. It was the pleasant month of May. Trade was brisk then at Ephesus, not only from the large temporary increase of population, by the presence of provincials, and strangers from more distant parts, but from the purchases they made in the shops and markets. Among the tradesmen of Ephesus, there were none who depended more upon the business of this month than did makers and dealers in holy trinkets." "In the sacred month of the third year of St. Paul's stay in Ephesus, the makers of the ' silver shrines' found, to their consternation, that the demand for their commodity had so materially fallen off as most seriously to affect their interests. Upon this one of the leading men of their guild convened a meeting of their craft, and, in an inflammatory speech, pointed out Paul as the person who, by his preaching that there were 'no gods made with hands,' had not only produced this crisis in the trade, but had endangered their glorious temple, and imperiled that magnificence which the world admired." Kitto well says, "Here we witness a carious, but not unparalleled, union of the 'great goddess Diana' with the great god Self, whose worship still exists, though that of Diana is extinct." This brings out the point which seems to have practical interest for us, which we have suggested in our heading. Self-interest opposes
(1) vital religion;
(2) earnestness in Christ's services; and
(3) the very progress of Christianity. We observe -
I. CHRISTIANITY IS A LATE. It is a Divine inward renewal; it is a new creation; it is an impartation of Divine life; it is not, primarily, an interference with social evils, or any endeavor to set the world's wrong right. St. Paul preached the Christian truth, and bade men seek Christ for themselves, that "they might have life;" but we have no reason whatever for supposing that he attacked the shrine-makers, or even made any peril for himself by arguing against the claims of Diana. The power of Christianity still lies in the change which it works in each individual, the regeneration of the man, his possession of a new life. Christian teachers must deal afterwards with the relations between the Christian life and the family and society; but the Christian preacher comes first and declares that "God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his son: he that hath the Son hath life."
II. CHRISTIANITY IS SURE TO EXERT A SOCIAL INFLUENCE. It comes to save souls; but the action of the renewed cannot fail to tell on social life, bringing in a new set of sentiments and habits, and steadfastly resisting some of the older ones. Illustrations may be found in connection with slavery. Christianity makes no plea against it, and yet, when men become Christians, they are sure to feel the evil of slavery, and are ready to resist it, as a social custom, even at a great sacrifice. So with war. At Ephesus no word need have been spoken about the superstitious use of charms and amulets; but when the Ephesians accepted Christ as their Savior, a social sentiment against these superstitions would speedily be raised. The one all-effectual counteractive to social and moral evils is strong, vigorous, noble Christian life; and just this the world so greatly needs today.
III. CHRISTIANITY, IN EXERTING ITS SOCIAL INFLUENCE, IS SURE TO BEAR HEAVILY ON SOME. It did on the shrine-makers of Ephesus; it has done on slaveholders in England and America; it does on drink-sellers, and on all whose trade is in any form immoral: it does on those who would make personal gain out of the superstitions and fears of the people; it does on those who proclaim skeptical and infidel ideas.
IV. THE INTENSEST OPPOSITION TO CHRISTIANITY IS AROUSED WHERE SELF-INTEREST IS AFFECTED. Men may feel more deeply when they are touched in their emotions, but they make more immediate and active show of their feelings when they are affected in their self-interests. And, on the ground of such self-interest, combinations of men are easily made to resist a truth or a reform. Show how this finds application in these our own milder times. Spiritual Christianity finds itself affecting men's purely worldly interests nowadays. Many a man wages a great fight with himself ere he lets his piety master his very trade; and wins a willingness to sacrifice golden opportunities of advancement and wealth, rather than lose his soul's eternal life. And there are modern illustrations of the way in which men, whose self-interest is touched, will combine to resist revival and reformation. In so many forms the principle laid down by our Lord finds ever fresh illustration: "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." Remarking on the deceptions which lead men to combine against established order or new truth, Bode names the following: -
1. One pretends to high aims, and is influenced by the grossest selfishness.
2. One thinks himself free to act, and is the involuntary instrument of crafty seducers.
3. One values himself as enlightened, and commits the most unreasonable acts of folly.
4. One prides himself that he contends for the right, and perpetrates the most unrighteous deeds of violence.
5. One is filled with extravagant expectations, and in the end gains nothing. - R.T.
Gaius and Aristarchus...Paul's companions in travel
I. TRAVEL TO LEARN. Some say that a man can learn no more abroad than at home. True if he learns nothing at home. Only those know how to travel who know that it would take a year to go round a room properly. Travelling is the most innocent of pleasures, and as a charming means of enlarging the mind is without an equal.
II. LEARN WHAT TO AVOID AND WHAT TO SEE. A preacher of righteousness needs to speak plainly on that silly, unclean practice of Englishmen abroad of going to see what they call "life" — not that they always go abroad to see it. Call it rather seeing death, foulness. If someone were to go, for one day at least, to some of those shambles and spend the time in clearing up the dirt, it would be well; but that is not the motive. What I like to see when I travel is life — the vine in its glory, the field in its greenness, how men worship, their temples and shrines; and I always look out the English Church to worship the God of my fathers, in the language of my fathers. Some of you never do that. But, think where you would have gone to if you had been Paul's companions. Wherever he went the first thing he asked was, "Where is the synagogue?"
III. TAKE AN AGREEABLE COMPANION. This will make the journey more agreeable. If two men can travel together, they can go anywhere and into any business together. And the same thing might be said of young people who are about to marry. If men and women were to do a little travelling together before marriage there would be fewer ill-assorted marriages.
IV. BE CALM. Don't be irritated at mistakes, disappointments, discomforts. They are precious discipline which will help you much when you get home.
V. KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TO SEE. Read up the objects of interest.
VI. AVOID WHAT YOU CAN SEE AS WELL OR PERHAPS BETTER AT HOME, such as third-rate picture galleries and museums. VII. FIGHT AGAINST DOING ABROAD WHAT YOU WOULD BE ASHAMED TO DO AT HOME. What meanness to do before God what you would not dare to do before man, and amongst strange men what you would not do before friends. It is beautiful to see the Mohammedan, wherever he is, at a certain hour performing his ablutions, and where water is not to be had rubbing himself with sand, and saying his prayer.
(G. Dawson, M. A.)
They rushed with one accord into the theatre.
(Dean Plumptre.)1. The histrionic art has claimed much of the attention of the world since the day when Thespis acted his play in a waggon at the festival of Dionysius, until this hour when the finest audience rooms in Paris and London are given up to the drama. The theatre of Ephesus was a vast building — the seats rising in concentric circles until no human voice could reach the multitude, and the playactors had masks which served as speaking trumpets, while there were under the seats reflectors of sound. The building was roofless, but covered with an awning to keep out the glare of the sun, and all the performances were in the daytime; while, at the side, there were porticoes into which many of the people retired in time of rain. The building was an overmastering splendour of marble, and glass, and statuary, and gold, and silver, and precious stones.
2. Paul wanted to attend that theatre. What! had the apostle been so pleased with the writings of Eschylus, Sophocles and Euripedes, that between his sermons he must go and look upon the performances of the theatre? No! He wanted to go into that theatre to preach Christ to the people, and vindicate the cause of truth and righteousness. Indeed, I do not know any place more appropriate for the preaching of the gospel than these palaces of dramatic art. Chatham Theatre in New York was never put to a grander purpose than when in 1857, during the great revival, the doors were thrown open for religious assemblages, and hundreds of souls found that their birth place. But until the ministry shall be invited to preach in all theatres, the best thing we can do is to preach to the actors.
3. But, says someone, "You are their avowed enemy." No, I am not. I acknowledge that there is as much genius in that profession as in any other; that there are men and women in it who are pure, honest, and generous. We must, however, acknowledge that there is an everlasting war between the Church and the playhouse. You do not like the Church. We do not like the theatre. But there is a common ground upon which we can meet today, as souls to be saved or lost, for whom there is a Saviour. I ask the members of the theatrical profession to surrender to Christ on two grounds.
I. BECAUSE OF THE VAST AMOUNT OF USEFULNESS YOU MIGHT WIELD FOR CHRIST. The course of history would have been changed if actors had given themselves to Christian work. It was the dramatic element sanctified in Robert Hall, Chalmers, and Whitfield, that made them the irresistible instruments of righteousness. If Kean, Kemble, Junius Booth, Garrick, and their contemporaries of the stage, had given themselves to the service of the Lord, this would have been a far different world from what it is. If their successors would some night at the close of their performance come to the front of the stage and say, "Ladies and gentlemen, from this time I am a servant of Jesus Christ: I am His for time and for eternity" — it would save the world! "Oh," you say, "that is an impossibility; there is such a prejudice against us, that if we should come and knock at the door of a Christian Church, we would be driven back." Great mistake: When Spencer H. Cone stepped from the burning theatre in Richmond, December 26, 1811, into the pulpit of the Baptist denomination, he was rapturously welcomed, and I ask what impression that man ever made as a play actor compared with that which he made as an apostle. I ask that you give to God your power of impersonation, your grip over the human heart, your capacity to subdue, and transport great assemblages. Garrick and Whitfield were contemporaries; the triumph of the one was in Drury Lane Theatre; of the other in Moorfields. From the door of eternity, which man has the pleasanter retrospect?
II. ON THE GROUND OF YOUR OWN HAPPINESS AND SAFETY. There is no peace for any occupation or profession without Christ. The huzza in the Haymarket and Covent Garden could not give peace to Mrs. Siddons, and Betterton, and Kean, and Macready. The world may laugh at the farce, but the comedian finds it a very serious business. Liston in his day had more power to move the mirth of an audience than any other man. He went one day to Dr. Abernethy, saying: "Oh, doctor, I am so low-spirited; can't you cure me?" Dr. Abernethy, who did not know him, said, "Pooh, pooh, I am not the man you want to see; don't come to a doctor; go to Liston; two doses would cure a madman." Alas for Liston, he might cure others, but he could not cure himself. When I preached on the subject before, several play actresses came and said, "We would like to become Christians, if you could only find for us some other occupation." I said to them what I say to you: that no one ever becomes a Christian until he or she is willing to say, "Lord Jesus, I take Thee now anyhow, come weal or woe, prosperity or privation, comfortable home or almshouse." But God lets no one be shelterless and hungry who comes in that spirit.
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
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