They reasoned that they had with their own eyes beheld the miraculous
power exercised by the apostles; that they had seen a cripple who had
never before used his limbs, made to leap and rejoice in perfect health and
strength, through the exercise of the marvelous power possessed by
these strangers. But, after much persuasion on the part of Paul, and
explanation as to the true mission of the apostles, the people were
reluctantly led to give up their purpose. They were not satisfied, however,
and led away the sacrificial beasts in great disappointment that their
traditions of divine beings visiting the earth could not be strengthened by
this example of their favor in coming to confer upon them special blessings
which would exalt them and their religion in the estimation of the world.
And now a strange change came upon the fickle, excitable people, because
their faith was not anchored in the true God. The opposing Jews of
Antioch, through whose influence the apostles were driven from that
district, united with certain Jews of Iconium, and followed upon the track
of the apostles. The miracle wrought upon the cripple, and its effect upon
those who witnessed it, stirred up their envy, and led them to go to the
scene of the apostles' labor, and put their false version upon the work.
They denied that God had any part in it, and claimed that it was
accomplished through the demons whom these men served.
The same class had formerly accused the Saviour of casting out devils
through the power of the prince of devils; they had denounced him as a
deceiver; and they now visited the same unreasoning wrath upon his
apostles. By means of falsehoods they inspired the people of Lystra with
the bitterness of spirit by which they were themselves actuated. They
claimed to be thoroughly acquainted with the history and faith of Paul and
Barnabas, and so misrepresented their characters and work that these
heathen, who had been ready to worship the apostles as divine beings,
now considered them worse than murderers, and that whoever should put
them out of the world would do God and mankind good service.
The crowd reluctantly retired, and led the victims away without offering them
in sacrifice to the Apostles. It might be supposed that at least
a command had been obtained over their gratitude and reverence, which
would not easily be destroyed; but we have to record here one of those
sudden changes of feeling, which are humiliating proofs of the weakness of
human nature and of the superficial character of religious excitement. The
Lycaonians were proverbially fickle and faithless; but we may not too
hastily decide that they were worse than many others might have been
under the same circumstances. It would not be difficult to find a parallel
to their conduct among the modern converts from idolatry to Christianity.
And certainly no later missionaries have had more assiduous enemies than
the Jews, whom the Apostles had everywhere to oppose. Certain Jews
from Iconium, and even from Antioch,4 followed in the footsteps of Paul
and Barnabas, and endeavoured to excite the hostility of the Lystrians
against them. When they heard of the miracle worked on the lame man,
and found how great an effect it had produced on the people of Lystra,
they would be ready with a new interpretation of this occurrence.
would say that it had been accomplished, not by Divine agency, but by
some diabolical magic; as once they had said at Jerusalem, that He
who came "to destroy the works of the devil," cast out devils "by
Beelzebub the prince of the devils."5 And this is probably
the true explanation of that sudden [p. 173]
change of feeling among the Lystrians, which at first
sight is very surprising. Their own interpretation of what they had
witnessed having been disavowed by the authors of the miracle themselves,
they would readily adopt a new interpretation, suggested by those who
appeared to be well acquainted with the strangers, and who had followed
them from distant cities. Their feelings changed with a revulsion as
violent as that which afterwards took place among the "barbarous people"
of Malta,1 who first thought St. Paul was a murderer, and then a God.
4 Acts xiv. 19.
5 Matt. xii. 24.
1 Acts xxviii. 4-6.
And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people,
that they had not done sacrifice unto them. (Acts 4:18)
And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch
and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul,
drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. (Acts 14:19)
Mt 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow
doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the