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Antioch, with Paul and Barnabas, chosen men from among them selves ; namely Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, men of
principal account aniong the brethren, to add the greater authority 23 to the report ; writing by their hand these things that follow :
The apostles, and elders, and brethren send greeting to the brethren from among the Gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and 24 Cilicia.-Forasmuch as we have been informed, that some going
out from among us, to whom we gave no commission, have troubled
you with discourses, unsettling your minds, saying that you must 25 be circumcised and keep the law ; we, being unanimously as
sembled, have thought proper to send you chosen men with 26 our beloved Barnabas and Paul ; men that have exposed their 27 lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore
sent Judas and Silas, who will also tell you by word of mouth the 28 same things. For it hath seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and
to us, to impose no further burden upon you beside these neces29 sary things ; that you abstain from things offered to idols, and
from blood, and from any thing, strangled, and from fornication * From which you will do well to keep yourselves. Farewell.
REFLECTIONS. Let us adore the divine condescension in lookiug with pity upon the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. We are that people ; let it be our concern, that as his name is named upon us, we render it becoming honours, and remember what an obligation it lays upon us to depart from iniquity?' May the fallen tabernacle of David also in due time be raised up, and all its ruins repaired! that, when God's ancient people are remembered by his, the residue of men may seek after the Lord, and the fulness of ile Gentiles may be brouglit in. God who hath a complete view of all his schemes, and of all his works from the foundation of the world, will accomplish this also in its season. In the mean time, let us gratefully acknowledge what he has already done. Let us be peculiariy thankful that we are freed from the burdens of the Mosaic institution, and called to a law of liöerty. Yet let us take due heed that we do not abuse it to licentiousness. Let us learn from the tenor of this decree, tenderly to regard even the pr judices of our Christian brethren, and to be careful that we do not violently overbear them ; but rather that, so far as honour and conscience will allow, we become all things to all men, and be willing in some respect to deny ourselves, that we may not give unnecessary offence to others. Most prudently did the apostles determine this affair, under the influence of the divine Spirit ; and whatever hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to them, let us treat with all becoming regard.—The messengers from Antioch, by whom they returned this decree, were persons of an amiable character indeed : They had haze arded their lives in the service of Christ, and joyfully went on to expose them to new dangers ; thinking themselves, no doubt, exceeding happy in the success of this negotiation, as also in the society of those pious brethren of the circumcision, who accompanied them in their return with this letter.-May the blessed time come, when the ministers of Christ, of all denominations, laying aside their mutual animosities, shall agree to study the things which make for peace, and the things wherewith one may edify another ! Then will liberty and truth have a more easy and universal triumph, while love melts and cements those souls whom rigorous severity has only served to harden, to disunite, and to alienate.
* Some suppose this to be added, because the infamy of simple fornication was not so great among the Gentiles as the crime deserved. Others explaid it of victims offered by prostitutes out of their scandalous hire. I pretend not to determine the point ; but must observe, that taken in the worst sense, it cannot prove the universal unlawfulness of eating blood. Compare i Cor, vü, I
The messengers from the assembly at Jerusalem arrive at Antioch ; Paul
with Silas, and Barnabas with John Mark, set out to visit the churches they had planted, Ch. xv. 30, &c.
Antioch ; and assembling the multitude of believers, delivered 31 the epistle to them. And when they had read it, they rejoiced for 32 the consolation it brought. And Judas and Silas being prophets
also themselves (or ministers of great knowledge in the scripiures) in 33 a copious discourse exhorted and strengthened the brethren. And
having made some stay, they were dismissed with peace from the 34 brethren to the apostles from whom they came. But Silas thought 35 proper to continue there. Paul also and Barnabas continued at
Antioch, teaching and preaching the good word of the Lord;
with many others also. 36 And after some days, Paul said to Barnabas, Let us return and
visit our brethren in all the cities, to which we have preached the 37 word of the Lord, that we may inquire how they do. And Barna38 bas advised to take along with them John surnamed Mark. But
Paul did not think proper to take with them that person, who had withdrawn himself from them, not in the most honourable manner,
from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work they were 39 now going to inquire after. There was therefore a sharp fit of an.
ger between them, so that they separated from each other; and 40 Barnabas, taking Mark along with him, sailed to Cyprus. But
Paul made choice of Silas, and departed ; being commended to Al the grace of God by the brethren. And he went through Syria,
and Cilicia, his native country, confirming the churches.
REFLECTIONS. How happy an office had these good men, to go about from one place to another, comforiing and confirming the souls of their brethren wiiere. ever they came ! They ha:
the pleasure of it, and are now also reaping in the heavenly world the fruits of their las. bour of love. Deliver us, O thou Father of mercies, from lording it over thine heritage, and overbearing the consciences and liberties of our brethren, with whatever secular advantages it might be attended ; and give us to taste at least something of the generous pleasure of these faithful messengers, though it should be with all their labour and persecutions. While we endeavour to comfort, may we be also ready to exhort and quicken one another. May Christians animate each other in the work and warfare to which they are called ; and may ministers remember, how great a part of their work consists in practical addresses, to which, like Judas and Silas in the instance before us, they should choose to digress, rather than entirely omit them.
None can wonder that Paul and Barnabas were desirous to visit the churches they had planted : for it is natural for those who have been spiritual fathers to have a peculiar affection for their offspring, as it also is for the children which God hath given them to honour and love those who (as the apostle expresses it) have begotten them in Christ Jesus. Happy is it indeed when ihe visits of ministers, animated by such a spirit, are improved to the blessed purposes of advancing the work which divine
grace has already begun, and of addressing cautions as well as encouragements with such affection, wisdom, and zeal, that it may finally appear, they have not run in vain, nor laboured in vain.
It is with sensible regret that we read of any difference, and much more of a sharp contention arising between Paul and Barnabas, so dear to each other in the bonds both of human and Christian friendship. But we see it arose to some degree of severity, in consequence of a remain. der of imperfection in the temper of the one or the other, yea, probably of both ; they separated therefore, but it plainly appears that they did not become enemies. They preached the same gospel, though in different companies, each taking his proper circuit ; and thus the work of the Lord was performed with greater dispatch, and perhaps with greater success, while Mark (who afterwards appears, as well as Barnabas, to have been restored to the intimate friendship of Paul). was, on the one hand, endeavouring to shew that Barnabas had not chosen an unworthy associate ; and, on the other hand, Silas (the fellowlabourer and fellow-sufferer of Paul) would take care to behave in such a manner, that this great apostle might have no reason to repent of the preference which he had given to him. To conclude ; we see that both Barnabas and Paul go to their native country. Some pecuJiar affection to it, when it is not injurious to the general happiness of mankind, is natural and allowable ; and it is certain we cannot shew our love to it in any nobler and more important instance, than by endeavouring to promote the progress and success of the gospel in it,
Paul and Silas pass through several provinces of the Lesser Asia, and hav
ing associated Timothy with them go over into Europe, and arrive at Ma. cedonia, by divine direction. Ch. xvi. 1-12.
ND Paul håving passed through Syria and Cilicia, he came
to Derbe, and from thence to Lystra ; and behold a certain disciple was there whose name was Timothy, the son of a believe 2 ing Jewess, but of a Grecian father ; who had an honourable cha3 racter given by the brethren in Lystra and Iconium. Him Paul
would have to go forth with him to preach the gospel, and he took and circumcised him; not as a matter of necessity but of prudence,
on account of the Jews who were in those places ; for they all 4 knew his father, that he was a Greek. And as they passed through
the cities, they delivered to their custody, a copy of the decrees,
which were determined by the apostles and elders that were at Je. 5 rusalem. The churches therefore were confirmed in the faith, 6 and increased in number daily. And they went through' Phrygia
and the region of Galatia ; and after this being forbidden by the 7 Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia*, when they were to come
to Mysia, they attempted to go to Bithynia ; but the Spirit (of JE8 sust) did not permit them. And passing by Mysia, they went 9 down to Troas. * And here a vision appeared to Paul in the night :
There stood a certain Macedonian, entreating him, and saying, 10 « Come over to Macedonia, and help us." And as soon as he had
seen this vision, wet immediately endeavoured to go to Macedo
nia ; assuredly inferring, that the Lord called us to preach the 11 gospel to them. Setting sail therefore from Troas, we ran direct12 ly to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis, and came from
thence to Philippi, which is a city of the first part of Macedonia, and a Roman colony : and we continued in this city for some days.
REFLECTIONS. Let us with pleasure observe the prudent condescension of the apos. tle Paul, in becoming all things to all men, and particularly, to the Jews as a Jew, that he might gain the Jews ; for this purpose circumcising his companion Timothy, that he might give them no unneces. sary offence. Nor was the condescension and zeal of this pious youth to be less esteemed, who was willing to submit, not only to that painful rite, but to all the yoke of ceremonial observances to which he was obliged by it, in a view to usefulness in the church. Well may it expect eminent service from those ministers of the rising generation, that set out with such a spirit; while, on the other hand, when
* That is, the proconsular Asia : the places before mentioned being in Asia Minor.
† So it is in many ancient readings, versions, and quotations.
# Here Luke, the writer, who attended these apostles, speaks in his own person.
a fierce and haughty sense of liberty is the reigning, darling character, and a determination is formed to submit in nothing, to oblige in nothing; as the first elements of the Christian temper seem as yet to be unknown, there is great reason to believe, that the doctrines and precepts of the gospel will not, cannot be successfully taught; great reason to fear that such instructors will have their reward in the empty ap. plauses which they give to themselves and each other; while they brand those who are solicitous to become wise that they may win soul, with reproaches which God will remember in the day when he will judge the secrets of all hearts; and will find many of them far different from what such rash men have presumed to pronounce them.
Indefatigable were the journeys and labours of these ambassadors of Christ; they travelled through wide-extended regions, and sowed the seeds of knowledge and of life wherever they came, and God gave the increase. But the economy of divine providence was very remarkable, in not permitting them to preach in Bithynia, and forbidding them to do it in Asia. What were the particular reasons of this determination we know not ; perhaps the inhabitants of these places were remarkably conceited of their own wisdom ; perhaps they had treated the flying reports of the gospel with contempt ; or, possibly, without any particular displeasure against them, their visitation might be delayed in a view to more general good. But happy was it for Galatia, Phrygia, and the neighbouring parts, that they were not included in the prohibition. And happy is it for this sinful land of ours, that the abused, insulted gospel, is not taken away, and that its ministers are not one way or another forbidden to repeat those offers, which have so long been rejected and despised. The visit of a Macedonian imploring the help of the apostle, was justly regarded by him and his associates as an intimation of the divine pleasure that they should pass over thither. And surely, did those nations of the earth that have not yet received the gospel, know in the general how great a blessing it is, instead of opposing those messengers of it who might offer to spread it among them, they would rather in the most pressing manner urge and entreat their presence, and with the greatest joy sit down at their feet. May they who are intrusted with this glorious embassy imitate the pious zeal of these holy men, and be willing, when called by providence, to cross land and seas on so pious and so charitable an errand,
Paul and Silas preach at Philippi, and cast out a spirit of divination from a
damsel : they are thrown into prison, and the jailor is converted. Chi xvi, 13–34.
to the side of the river, where, according to the Jewish custom, there was an oratory or place of public prayer; and sitting 14 down, we spoke to the women that were assembled there. And
a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, a native of the