Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the people upon a far less occasion); they no sooner heard of it than they ran into the midst of them, and after the eastern manner of expressing grief or indignation, they rent their clothes and exclaimed,

“ Sirs, why do ye these things—we are men of like passions with yourselves, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities to the living God, who made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein, &c." Nor was it without difficulty that, even with these arguments, they prevailed upon them to desist from their absurd purpose.

Among the fruit of their ministry here, however, at this time, the apostles had the satisfaction of enumerating Timothy, afterwards an evangelist; as well as his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois, whose native city seems to have been Lystra. * But the adversaries of the apostles who had formerly driven them from Iconium, at length pursued them to Lystra, where they seized Paul, drew him out of the city, and stoned him, leaving him, as they thought, dead. While his friends stood around him, however, he rose up and walked into the city, and the following day Barnabas and he took their leave and departed for Derbe, where they preached the gospel with much success, and from thence returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, establishing the minds of the disciples in the truths they had received, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and warning them that they must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. Upon this second visit, they also ordained elders or bishops in every church, which was done by fasting and prayer, commending them to the blessing of the Lord Jesus Christ on whom they believed. After this they passed throughout all the region of Pisidia and

Compare 1 Tim. i. 2. and 2 Tim. i. 5, with Acts xiv, 21. and ebap. xvi, 1, 2.

came to Pamphilia, where they again preached the word in the city of Perga, and passing through Attalia, sailed for Antioch in Syria, the city from whence they had originally taken their departure.

Thus having accomplished their first journey, they reported to the church all that God had wrought by their means, and especiaily how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. This done they took up their abode again for a considerable while with the disciples at Antioch.*

SECTION IV.

THE STEJECT CONTINUED.

From the return of Paul and Barnabas after their first journey, to the period of Paul's arrival at Jerusalem with the contribution for the saints; being his second and third journies.

While Paul and Barnabas were prolonging their stay with the church at Antioch, previous to their setting out on a second journey, a circumstance occurred in that church, which, on account of its great importance to all the Gentile converts, appears to have engaged their most serious and fixed attention.

It seems that at this particular juncture, “ certain men came down from Judea, and taught the Gentile brethren at Antioch, that, unless they were circumcised, after the manner of Moses, and kept the law, they could not be saved." † Some suppose these teachers to have been

[blocks in formation]

Cerinthus and Ebion, the founders of two noted sects, of which the mention frequently occurs in ecclesiastical history; but the opinion rests solely upon tradition-a very doubtful guide in all cases, and more especially so in the concerns of religion. It is probable that, whatever were their names, they had formerly been of the sect of the Pharisees; and that when they became professors of the Christian faith, they still retained something of that old leaven, of which Jesus had warned his disciples to beware. The doctrine and spirit of that sect were very opposite to the religion of Christ; and when these men embraced the gospel, they had not discerned the difference so clearly as Paul did at his conversion—they rather reconciled the gospel to their former ways of thinking, than became themselves reconciled to its simplicity. Hence we find they became disturbers of the Gentile churches, as is evident from what took place at this time at Antioch, as well as from the epistle which Paul afterwards wrote to the churches of Galatia.

The doctrine of these teachers, which aimed at subjecting the Gentile converts to the rite of circumcision, and especially to make their obedience to that institute essential to their salvation, met with the most pointed opposition from these apostles. The subject involved the whole church at Antioch in dissension and disputation; and terminated in a general agreement that a deputation, consisting of Paul and Barnabas, with several others, should go up to Jerusalem to consult the apostles and the elders of that church about this question. In their way they passed through the regions of Phoenicia and Samaria, where they made known the calling of the Gentiles into the Christian church, and the success which their ministry had met with among them, to the inexpressible satisfaction of the Jewish brethren.

On their arrival at Jerusalem, they acquainted the VOL. I.

S

apostles and elders with the object of their mission, in consequence of which the church was convened to take the subject into deliberation. And it appears that even in that church, the proposal to subject the Gentiles to circumcision, found supporters, especially among those disciples who had originally been of “the sect of the Pharisees."* When the church had been some time harassed with the dispute, Peter rose up and reminded them how God had formerly made choice of him to be the means of opening the door of faith to the Gentiles, and how he bad also poured out the Holy Spirit upon them, making no distinction in his kingdom between Jew and Gentile, but purifying the hearts of each by faith. He therefore expostulated with them for attempting to bring the Gentile brethren under the severe yoke of Jewish ceremonies—a yoke so intolerable, that neither they nor their fathers were able to bear it; and pronounced the project of these men to be no less than a“ tempting God.” And he closed his speech by declaring the sufficiency of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to effect the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles, without any regard to the peculiarities of Judaism.

When Peter had ended his address, Paul and Barnabas gave the church a particular account of the miracles and wonders which, by means of their ministry, God had wrought among the Gentiles; and when they had finished, the apostle James, who seems to have acted as President of the assembly on this occasion, summed up the whole subject, recapitulating what had been said, and giving his own judgment as an apostle of Christ, which was “ That they should not trouble those who from among the Gentiles were turned unto God; but that they should write unto them, that they must abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from

• Acts xv. 5.

things strangled, and from blood." This met the unanimous approbation of the whole church; and accordingly letters were written to all the Gentiles, disclaiming the authority of these new teachers, protesting against their doctrine, and completely freeing the disciples from the yoke of bondage which was thus attempted to be imposed upon them. So Paul and Barnabas returned from Jerusalem to the church at Antioch, which being convened, they read the epistle, to the great consolation of all the Gentile brethren. The apostles, after this, contipued at Antioch, teaching the disciples the commandments of the Lord Jesus, and preaching the glad tidings of salvation to all sorts of men, in which it seems they were assisted by many others on whom the glorified Head of the church had bestowed the gifts necessary for the work of the Christian ministry, *

The interest of the kingdom of Christ was a subject that, of all others, lay nearest to the heart of the apostle Paul. The church at Antioch was now confirmed in the faith and obedience of the gospel; the question which had lately agitated them was set at rest; and it abounded with labourers in the Lord's vineyard; he therefore proposed to Barnabas that they should leave Antioch, and pay a second visit to the different places in which they had formerly preached the doctrine of Christ, and examine the state of the various churches they had there planted. It is not at all improbable that Paul's fear and jealousy might be excited, lest these corrupt teachers, who had troubled the brethren at Antioch, might also get access into other Gentile churches, and propagate the same pernicious sentiments, thereby subverting the doctrine of divine grace, and stumbling the Gentile disciples in their profession. Barnabas yielded to the proposal; but when they were about to proceed, a difference

• Acts xv.

33.

« PreviousContinue »