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but ability to contribute something to the cause of religion. Paul, however, that he might not be burdensome to his liberal friends, laboured with them in their occupation. Though he claimed a right to live of the gospel, he used not this right in Corinth, lest the success of his preaching should be obstructed. He says to the Corinthians-Now ye are full, ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings— but we are weak and despised; we hunger and thirst, and are naked, having no certain dwelling place; and we labour, working with our handsI have kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so will I keep myself.
Every Christian is bound to make his worldly substance, in some way or other, subservient to the interest of religion. The minister is to preach the gospel, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. But, then, they who are taught in the word, must communicate to him who teacheth, in such measure, that he may wait on his teaching, and attend to it without distraction.
2. This Christian pair helped the Apostle by a faithful attendance on his ministry.
Paul reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, persuading the Jews and Greeks; and doubtless these pious persons who entertained the preacher in their house, accompanied him to the synagogue.
Heads of families, by an exemplary attendance on the preaching of the word, greatly assist their minister. There is no way in which they can more effectually second his labours. They thus shew to their children, to youth in general, and to all around them, that they esteem the gospel divinely excellent, and infinitely important-that they regard the preaching of it, as an institution of God, and honour the preachers of it, as the messengers of Jesus Christ. Their attendance invites others to accompany them, animates their minister, gives
an elevation to his spirits, and an ardour to his zeal. It raises his hopes of success among his people, and particularly among the youth.
But if, on the contrary, they treat the preaching of the word with cold indifference, and contemptuous neglect, seldom attending on it, except when the season is remarkably inviting, or the occasion gives an expectation of something new; far from helping, they rather hinder their minister. He can hardly forbear to say to them, "I would, that ye were cold or hot." Their declared indifference to the ministry, leads others, especially the young, to view it as a useless invention, and to regard it rather as matter of amusement, than a mean of salvation.
My brethren, if you expect from your minister no help to your own souls-if your Christian attainments raise you above such means of edification, as his preaching; yet you will permit him to ask your attendance, that you may be his helpers in Christ Jesus-that you may contribute to the efficacy of his preaching among your children. He will thank you for this favour; for he would by all means save some. He ardently desires that Christ may be formed in the youth, and that they may grow up in all things into him, who is the head. They are not yet superior to religious instruction. You will help them, when you help your minister, by your constant attendance at the sanctuary.
But then let your attendance be grave and devout; and on what you hear, let your remarks be candid and serious. Ludicrous or captious animadversions, defeat the proper influence of the word on youthful minds. What is pertinent to your case, take home to yourselves, and assist your youths in applying what is pertinent to theirs. Retain and improve what is good. If you meet with any thing, which appears otherwise, let prudence point out the proper time and place to mention it.
3. These persons helped Paul by their conversa tion and example.
From a particular instance, mentioned in the xviiith chapter of the Acts, we learn, how assiduous. they were, by their private conversation, to promote the interest of the gospel. When Paul went from Corinth to Jerusalem, they accompanied him as far as Ephesus. Here they met with Apollos, who was an eloquent and zealous man, and mighty in the scriptures of the old testament, and had been in structed in the way of the Lord; but being a Jew, and having lived in Alexandria, he had not yet gained a complete knowledge of the gospel. Aquila and his wife heard Apollos speak in the Jewish synagogue, and teach the things of the Lord. But finding, that he needed farther information, they took him and expounded to him the way of the Lord more perfectly. After this, Apollos helped those much, who through grace had believed. Their attention, in this case, shews their pious concern to be useful by private instruction.
My Christian friends, you may greatly help your minister, by inculcating on your families the truths which you hear from him-by adding your own to his reproofs and exhortations-by seasonable admonitions to the young members of other familiesand often, too, by your advice to him, as well as by applying for his advice in your spiritual concerns. Apollos, after he began to teach the things of the Lord, was more perfectly instructed in those things, by conversation with private Christians.
You may be especially helpful by your holy example. This, as far as it is seen, will be a standing exhortation to virtue, and reproof to vice. Let your light so shine, that all around you may see your good works, and glorify God.
4. They were doubtless helpful by their pray
Paul greatly valued the prayers of Christians; and, from a persuasion of his continual remembrance in them, was mightily encouraged in his work. He says to the Corinthians, "God has delivered us from death, and we trust he will yet deliver us, you also helping together by prayer for us." He entreats the brethren, for the Lord Jesus's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that they would "strive together with him in their prayers to God for him, that he might be delivered from them, who believe not; that his own service might be accepted of the saints; that utterance might be given him; and that he might speak the word, as he ought to speak." If the fervent prayers of the righteous avail much, they may, by their prayers, exceedingly help their minister in his work; and while they help him, they may help their own souls, too, and the souls of many around them.
5. The Apostle particularly remarks, that these persons, for his life, had laid down their own necks, for which service, not only he, but all the churches of the Gentiles, gave them thanks.
He here refers to some case, in which they had rescued his life with the hazard of their own. What the particular case was, we are not informed; but it was then in the churches a matter of publick notoriety, and general gratitude and praise.
Their motive, in this case, was not a partial affection for Paul, but a regard to the general interest of religion. This Apostle, in preaching the gospel, shewed the same benevolence. He says to the Philippians-If I be offered on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all. And to the elders of Ephesus-In every city bonds and afflictions abide me; but none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus,
to testify the gospel of the grace of God. The Apostle John says We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. His meaning cannot be, that one man is simply bound to die for another. This would be carrying the rule of benevolence beyond the limits which Christ has stated. "Love thy neighbour, as thyself." The precept, understood in so absolute a sense, would come to nothing. For if I am bound to take on myself my brother's danger, then he is bound immediately to take it back. But his intention must be, that in some extraordinary cases, especially in cases where the life and happiness of numbers are depending, we ought to interpose for the preservation of our brethren, though it be with great danger to ourselves. On a principle of general benevolence, the Apostle sought not his own profit, but the profit of many, that they might be saved. He supposes it possible, that for a good man, a man of extensive beneficence and usefulness, in distinction from a man who is merely righteous, some would dare to die; because with his life the happiness of numbers is connected. What the Apostle so highly commends in Aquila and has wife, was their general benevolence; their concern for the interest of the churches, and their zeal for the extensive spread of the gospel among the Gentiles. The spirit which appeared in them, ought to operate in all Christians, and such a spirit operating in Christian professors, would greatly facilitate and increase the success of ministers.
III. There is one thing more to be observed in the character of these persons. They had a church in their house. Their family resembled a church.
The honourable appellation, which the Apostle bestows on their household, suggests what a kind of family theirs was, and what every family ought to be.