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1: And taking their journey through Amphipolis and
Apollonia - St. Luke seems to have been left at Philippi; and to
have continued in those parts, travelling from place to place
among the Churches, till St. Paul returned thither. For here
he leaves off speaking of himself as one of St. Paul's company;
neither does he resume that style, till we find them together
there, (Ac 20:5,6). After this he constantly uses it to the
end of the history. Amphipolis and Apollonia were cities of
2: And Paul, according to his custom - Of doing all things, as
far as might be, in a regular manner, went in to them three
Sabbath days - Not excluding the days between.
4: Of the principal women, not a few - Our free thinkers pique
themselves upon observing, that women are more religious than
men; and this, in compliment both to religion and good manners,
they impute to the weakness of their understandings. And indeed
as far as nature can go, in imitating religion by performing the
outward acts of it, this picture of religion may make a fairer
show in women than in men, both by reason of their more tender
passions, and their modesty, which will make those actions
appear to more advantage. But in the case of true religion,
which always implies taking up the cross, especially in time of
persecution, women lie naturally under a great disadvantage, as
having less courage than men. So that their embracing the Gospel
was a stronger evidence of the power of him whose strength is
perfected in weakness, as a stronger assistance of the Holy
Spirit was needful for them to overcome their natural fearfulness.
11: These were more ingenuous - Or generous. To be teachable in
the things of God is true generosity of soul. The receiving the
word with all readiness of mind, and the most accurate search
into the truth, are well consistent.
12: Many of the - Of the Jews. And of the Grecian women - Who were
followed by their husbands.
16: While Paul was waiting for the - Having no design, as it
seems, to preach at Athens, but his zeal for God drew him
into it unawares, without staying till his companions came.
18: Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosopher - The Epicureans
entirely denied a providence, and held the world to be the effect
of mere chance; asserting sensual pleasure to be man's chief
good, and that the soul and body died together. The Stoics
held, that matter was eternal; that all things were governed by
irresistible fate; that virtue was its own sufficient reward,
and vice its own sufficient punishment. It is easy to see, how
happily the apostle levels his discourse at some of the most
important errors of each, while, without expressly attacking
either, he gives a plain summary of his own religious principles.
What would this babbler say? - Such is the language of natural
reason, full of, and satisfied with itself. Yet even here St.
Paul had some fruit; though nowhere less than at Athens. And
no wonder, since this city was a seminary of philosophers, who
have ever been the pest of true religion. He seemeth to be a
proclaimer - This he returns upon them at the 23d verse;(Ac 17:23) of strange gods - Such as are not known even at Athens.
Because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection - A god and
a goddess. And as stupid as this mistake was, it is the less
to be wondered at, since the Athenians might as well count the
resurrection a deity, as shame, famine, and many others.
19: The Areopagus, or hill of Mars, (dedicated to Mars, the
heathen god of war,) was the place where the Athenians held
their supreme court of judicature. But it does not appear he
was carried thither as a criminal. The original number of its
judges was twelve; but afterward it increased to three hundred.
These were generally men of the greatest families in Athens,
and were famed for justice and integrity.
21: And the strangers sojourning there - And catching the
distemper of them. Some new thing - The Greek word signifies
some newer thing. New things quickly grew cheap, and they
wanted those that were newer still.
22: Then Paul standing in the midst of the Areopagus - An ample
theatre; said - Giving them a lecture of natural divinity, with
admirable wisdom, acuteness, fulness, and courtesy. They
inquire after new things: Paul in his divinely philosophical
discourse, begins with the first, and goes on to the last things,
both which were new things to them. He points out the origin
and the end of all things, concerning which they had so many
disputes, and equally refutes both the Epicurean and Stoic.
I perceive - With what clearness and freedom does he speak!
Paul against Athens!
23: I found an altar - Some suppose this was set up by Socrates,
to express in a covert way his devotion to the only true God,
while he derided the plurality of the heathen gods, for which
he was condemned to death: and others, that whoever erected this
altar, did it in honour to the God of Israel, of whom there was
no image, and whose name Jehovah was never made known to the
idolatrous Gentiles. Him proclaim I unto you - Thus he fixes
the wandering attention of these blind philosophers;
proclaiming to them an unknown, and yet not a new God.
24: God who made the world - Thus is demonstrated even to reason,
the one true, good God; absolutely different from the creatures,
from every part of the visible creation.
25: Neither is he served as though he needed any thing - or person
- The Greek word equally takes in both. To all - That live and
breathe; - in him we live; and breathe - In him we move. By
breathing life is continued. I breathe this moment: the next
is not in my power: and all things - For in him we are. So exactly
do the parts of this discourse answer each other.
26: He hath made of one blood the whole nation of men - By this
expression the apostle showed them in the most unaffected
manner, that though he was a Jew, be was not enslaved to any
narrow views, but looked on all mankind as his brethren: having
determined the times - That it is God who gave men the earth
to inhabit, Paul proves from the order of times and places,
showing the highest wisdom of the Disposer, superior to
all human counsels. And the bounds of their habitation - By
mountains, seas, rivers, and the like.
27: If haply - The way is open; God is ready to be found. But he
will lay no force upon man; they might feel after him - This is
in the midst between seeking and finding. Feeling being the
lowest and grossest of all our senses, is fitly applied to the
low knowledge of God; though he be not far from every one of us
- We need not go far to seek or find him. He is very near us;
in us. It is only perverse reason which thinks he is afar off.
28: In him - Not in ourselves, we live, and move, and have our
being - This denotes his necessary, intimate, and most efficacious
presence. No words can better express the continual and
necessary dependence of all created beings, in their existence
and all their operations, on the first and almighty cause,
which the truest philosophy as well as divinity teaches. As
certain also of your own poets have said - Aratus, whose words
these are, was an Athenian, who lived almost three hundred years
before this time. They are likewise to be found, with the
alteration of one letter only, in the hymn of Cleanthes to
Jupiter or the supreme being, one of the purest and finest pieces
of natural religion in the whole world of Pagan antiquity.
29: We ought not to think - A tender expression especially in the
first per son plural. As if he had said, Can God himself be a
less noble being than we who are his offspring? Nor does he
only here deny, that these are like God, but that they have any
analogy to him at all, so as to be capable of representing him.
30: The times of ignorance - What! does he object ignorance to the
knowing Athenians? Yes, and they acknowledge it by this very
altar. God overlooked - As one paraphrases, "The beams of his
eye did in a manner shoot over it." He did not appear to take
notice of them, by sending express messages to them as he did to
the Jews. But now - This day, this hour, saith Paul, puts an end
to the Divine forbearance, and brings either greater mercy or
punishment. Now he commandeth all men every where to repent
- There is a dignity and grandeur in this expression, becoming an
ambassador from the King of heaven. And this universal demand
of repentance declared universal guilt in the strongest manner,
and admirably confronted the pride of the haughtiest Stoic of
them all. At the same time it bore down the idle plea of
fatality. For how could any one repent of doing what he could
not but have done?
31: He hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world - How
fitly does he speak this, in their supreme court of justice?
By the man - So he speaks, suiting himself to the capacity of his
hearers. Whereof he hath given assurance to all men, in that
he hath raised him from the dead - God raising Jesus demonstrated
hereby, that he was to be the glorious Judge of all. We are by
no means to imagine that this was all which the apostle intended
to have said, but the indolence of some of his hearers and the
petulancy of others cut him short.
32: Some mocked - Interrupting him thereby. They took offence at
that which is the principal motive of faith, from the pride of
reason. And having once stumbled at this, they rejected all
33: So Paul departed - Leaving his hearers divided in their judgment.
34: Among whom was even Dionysius the Areopagite - One of the judges
of that court: on whom some spurious writings have been fathered
in later ages, by those who are fond of high sounding nonsense.