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ACTS XV.

a great crop of flowering grass, and then receives the grass stances, the whole Church resolved to lay the matter back into its own bosom, to enrich it more for the before the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. Accordgrowth of the following year, an effort to give the gospel ingly it was arranged, with common consent, that a deto others is the best of all means to obtain more of it putation, including Paul and Barnabas, should proceed for ourselves.

to the Mother Church of Judæa, to state their case and The element of novelty in the report which Paul and maintain their interests. Barnabas brought home was, that God had opened the In adopting this resolution they were wisely led. A door of faith to the Gentiles. Hitherto, although con- right and authoritative decision on this subject was verts from beyond the pale of the Jewish nationality necessary, not only for the immediate peace, but also had been freely admitted, they had been accepted as for the future prosperity, and even the ultimate existindividuals, on profession of their faith, into com- ence of the Church. To have admitted, as authoritamunion with believing Jews. But now, in Gentile tively binding the consciences of believers, that somecities, churches were constituted mainly of Gentile con- thing additional to faith in Christ crucified was necessary verts. The door was open, and the gospel, overleap- to justification, would have essentially changed the ing the boundaries of Israel, had obtained access to the nature of the gospel. It would have been to draw the world.

pen through the glorious word, “It is finished," and to The Church at Antioch while Paul and Barnabas re- throw despairing sinners back on their own resources, sided there, after their return from the Greek cities of as if no Redeemer had undertaken and accomplished Asia, seems to be no longer a lodge in the wilderness, the work. We owe much to the watchful faithfulness but one of the golden streets of the New Jerusalem. of these primitive missionaries in asserting for themThere was so much of faith, and love, and joy, and selves and transmitting to us “the simplicity that is that of so long continuance, that they might well begin in Christ." to think they had already passed through the great tribulation—that the kingdom in its glory would soon appear. But a dark cloud suddenly overshadowed the

THE COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM. bright landscape. “ Certain men came down from Judæa, and taught the brethren,” &c. Alas ! the ailment under which we suffer to-day, afflicted the Church in Wuen the deputies arrived at Jerusalem, the interest in that early age. Certain men with narrow superstitious the missionaries and their accomplished work among notions attempted to thrust their own crotchets down the heathen was so great, that the dispute on a point the throats of their brethren. How much has the king- of doctrine was in the first instance thrown into the dom been obstructed in the world by men within the shade. Even on their way through Phenicia and SaChurch attempting to impose unnecessary beliefs or maria every town claimed a meeting, and every church practices upon the consciences of their brethren? This rejoiced in the glad news. In the capital, too, the desire baleful spirit manifested itself at an early date, and it to hear of the Lord's work predominated over all other has not yet been cast out. These men, acting like all claims ; and nothing was done towards the adjudicaother creatures after their kind, did not go to the hea- tion of the appealed case, until first the disciples were then to proclaim the gospel where it was unknown ; all satisfied with the details of the mission in Cyprusi, they came to those who were already Christians, and and throughout the cities of the lesser Asia. When this zealously proselytized in favour of their own sectarian great appetite was satisfied, then the apostles and elders watchword. They settled among the disciples at An- made preparation for an assembly to sit in judginent on tioch, and taught in a very positive form, that unless the question, whether the Mosaic rites should be inithe Gentiles conformed to the Mosaic ritual, their trust posed upon the Greek converts. The Christian Phariin Christ could not save them. The apostles perceived sees lost no time in bringing the question up, and pressat once that this question was vital. Here they must ing for a decision in their own favour. Whether these take their stand. The entrance of this leaven, they were the same men now returned from Antioch, or saw, would corrupt the whole body. It would introduce others resident in Jerusalem, who entertained the same another gospel.

opinions, is not made clear. “The apostles and elders It was one thing for converted Jews to continue for came together to consider of this matter.” The assembly some time the practice of the Mosaic ritual, with which was called to order, the case was introduced, and this they had been familiar from their childhood; and it debate began. After a good deal of preliminary diswas all another thing to impose that ritual on the Gen-cussion, Peter took occasion to narrate his own experitiles as if it were necessary to salvation. The question ence, and to express his views. He had, at an early was keenly discussed for some time at Antioch, be- date, been divinely called to carry the gospel to Gentween Paul and Barnabas on the one side, and the tile families residing within the territory of Judæa ; Judaizing teachers from Jerusalem on the other ; but and reasoning by analogy, he held strongly the view, as there was no authority competent to decide between that Paul and Barnabas were justified in admitting this the parties, no progress was made. In these circum- | Greeks on a foreign soil directly and simply into th> privileges of the Church, without enjoining the observ- Accordingly, after a period of united effort in Antioch, ance of the law of Moses. The next step was to hear a Paul proposed to Barnabas that they should revisit the narrative of the facts from the lips of the two mission- Churches which they had planted in Western Asia. aries. A great impression seems to have been made by Barnabas acquiesced heartily in the main features of his the intelligence from foreign parts. “All the multitude brother's plan; but a hitch occurred in the choice of a kept silence, and gave audience to Paul and Barnabas.” junior assistant. Barnabas preferred Mark, his own It is clear that besides the apostles and elders, a very nephew; and Paul refused to concur in the choice, on great number of Christians were present when this re- the ground that Mark had prematurely deserted the port was submitted.

mission in its time of need before. This weakness, Immediately after the address of the missionaries, and against which the good Barnabas was not proof, has while the assembly were under the solemn and tender wrought much mischief both in Church and State. It impressions of the scene, James, the Lord's brother, who has obtained a name,-nepotism,-from the very relation seems to have acted as a kind of president, summed up in which Mark stood to the senior missionary. So greatly the evidence, and proposed the decision of the court. has it interfered with every good work in the world, that The proposal submitted by James was unanimously those men have always been held in special honour who adopted. It unequivocally condemned the demand have been able to resist it, and have appointed the made by the Pharisaic Christians upon the Gentile con- fittest men to important trusts, without respect to family verts. It maintained for the Church an absolute free- connections. dom from the bondage of the ceremonial law. It en- But when a decisive difference of judgment occurred, joined abstinence from certain pollutions which were although the altercation was sharp at the moment, these common among idolaters, but prescribed no ritual as two men ultimately adopted a wise resolution, and pernecessary to salvation. This is the charter of the manent good sprang from incidental evil. Two well-apChurch's liberty to the present day. No man or body pointed missions sprang from one, and the benefit was of men has a right to prescribe for Christians, as of doubled. So the Lord over all makes the wrath of even authority, any observance or any form. The conscience his own servants to praise him, and the remainder of is not subject to human law.

that wrath he restrains. How tender and long-suffering It is well worthy of observation in our own day, that is our Father in heaven! Instead of punishing us for when a schism was threatened between two portions of our quarrels, he oftens turns them to the furtherance of the Christian Church, the difficulty was overcome, and bis own cause. He served hinself of the weakness, as the breach prevented, by refusing to adopt a new and well as of the strength, of these two primitive missionadditional term of communion. The introduction of aries. new dogmas as essential to salvation, necessarily rends Barnabas, with Mark as his companion, went by sea the body of Christ. Christians must hold and profess to Cyprus ; Paul, with Silas as coadjutor, travelled overall that their Saviour gave them, even at the risk of land westward through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the division ; but woe to those who on any pretext disturb Churches. the brotherhood by imposing any yoke which the Master Thus each of the two senior missionaries on that ocdid not impose !

casion visited the home of his youth; for Tarsus, the The Council at Jerusalem deputed Judas and Silas, place of Paul's nativity, was the chief city of Cilicia. two of their own number, to accompany Paul and Barna- Nothing is said of Paul's reception as a prophet in his has on their return to Antioch. These two confirmed own country. It is evident that he did not linger long the testimony of the missionaries, and certified the au- about Tarsus. Probably he found too much curiosity thenticity of the letter which they bore. The Christians among the people there regarding himself personally. at Antioch greatly rejoiced in the consolidation of their He disliked and resented everything that turned the liberty, and the suppression of the threatened schism. people's attention from the Christ whom he preached.

Silas, one of the deputies from Jerusalem, having be- He pressed accordingly westward through the province, come interested in the foreign work, remained at Antioch and tarried nowhere long till he reached Derbe and with the missionaries when his colleague returned. The Lystra, the scenes of his success and his sufferings on work of evangelization was now prosecuted with renewed his former tour. zeal in the great Syrian capital. The foundation of the At Lystra on this occasion occurred his first interview Church in that city must be laid deep and broad, that it with Timothy. This young man was already a Christian may serve as a basis for carrying the mission into Europe. of high reputation in the neighbourhood, and we know But the spirit of Paul could not long submit to the con- that the early religious training of the youth had been ditions of a settled ministry. He longed for labour on quickened into positive spiritual life by Paul's word the foreign field. His restlessness was of the Lord for spoken during the former journey. This must have been the good of the world. It would have been an unspeak- a glad and tender meeting. When Eunice, Timothy's able loss to the Western nations if this man had grown mother, introduced her son to Paul, and informed him indolent, and settled down in comfortable and honour- of the youth's conversion, the spirit of the laborious able employment at home.

missionary must have been greatly refreshed. Here was

XI.

ACTS xvi. 8-13.

evidence that his labour and his sufferings had not been they soon arrived at Troas, the extreme western point of in vain. At sight of Timothy, Paul would thank God the continent. There Paul's spirit was stirred within and take courage. The history is fresh and full of con- him as he saw the isles of Greece in the foreground, and solation still. It contains encouragement to every sower the continent of Europe in the distance. He longed to of the good seed, down to the end of the world. Many preach Jesus and the resurrection in Athens, the eye of seeds which go out of the sower's sight, take root and Greece and the centre of European civilization. bear fruit unto eternal life.

At Troas a fourth missionary joined the group - Luke, the beloved physician. From this point the narrative proceeds in the first person plural, because from this

point the historian was personally a witness of the events WESTWARD HO!

which he records.

By two stages they made the passage across the straits. HERE the history of the Church reaches a great crisis. The first day's sailing brought them to the island of The missionaries of the Cross pass the narrow sea that Samothracia, and next day they landed on the European separates Asia from Europe, and the gospel is introduced shore at Neapolis. Thence they journeyed inlard to among the nations of the growing West. In the person Philippi, the nearest city of importance. Here they of “the man of Macedonia,” Greece and Rome invite opened their commission and began. The Church of the apostles of the Cross. Weary and empty, the Philippi is thus the metropolitan Church of Europe. warriors, artists, and philosophers of the Empire thirst The seed of the kingdom imported from the East, first for the living water. Europe on the west, as Ethiopia fructified there, and thence spread through the neighon the south, dunibly stretches out her hands to God. bouring regions.

At Lystra the apostle of the Gentiles had been Philippi was a colony. This was doubtless one of the gladdened by the accession of Timothy to the missionary reasons why the missionaries selected it as their first band. At that place he had suffered more than else- station. It brought them into contact with the peculiar where; but there, as elsewhere, the blood of the martyrs institutions of the Roman Empire. Located in the had become the seed of the Church. From the seed of provinces, it was colonized by native Italians, and enhis own suffering and testimony at that place a goodly joyed the privileges of an Italian city. Chiefly inhabited fruit had secretly sprung. By the time of his second by discharged soldiers, it was a stronghold of defence on visit the fruit was ripe, and he who sowed was permitted the frontiers. In that city the missionaries abode some also to reap. In the former visit he had gone forth days, apparently without meeting an opportunity of pro. weeping, bearing precious seed : now when he leaves secuting their work. At this rate Paul will not linger Lystra, moving westward to new fields, he bears his long in the place. Life is short; and he must be about sheaves rejoicing. Faithful is he that promised : the his Master's business. But when the Sabbath arrived missionary is sustained in his work. “ His heart is an opportunity occurred. The few Jews who resided at lifted up in the ways of the Lord.” Let all men know Philippi seem not to have possessed a synagogue ; but that the sad things which happened to the preacher at a station had been provided in a sequestered spot by the Lystra have turned out for the furtherance of the gospel. side of the river where the worshippers of God, whether

Paul invited his son Timothy to join the mission, and native Jews or proselytes, were wont to meet for prayer. Timothy consented. Having in his bag a supply of Some women resorted to the spot : on this Sabbath, parchments containing the decrees of the council which women only were there. The Roman veteran, lording refused to bind circumcision on the conscience of the it on the soil of Macedonia, would sneer at the humble Gentile converts, Paul was at liberty to yield to the group as he saw them passing to the conventicle : perfeelings of the Jews from motives of expediency; and so haps a philosophic Greek, himself oppressed by the he circumcised Timothy at the outset. He had con military conquerors, uttered a sarcasm at the expense tended earnestly and successfully for the liberty of Chris- of the women-worshippers. No matter : those who win tians ; but he was not the man to put all his rights in have the right to laugh. These women were on the force, without regard to circumstances. He delighted winning side, and a windfall of great gain will meet them to concede in tenderness to brethren that which he to-day at the trysting-place. would not surrender to the legalists wbo demanded it Among the worshippers was Lydia, a Gentile proselyte as of right. He refused to circumcise the Greek Titus from Thyatira in Asia, settled in Philippi as an agent at the demand of Jewish Christians, because they de- for the sale of purple, the staple manufacture of her manded it on the ground that it was necessary to salva- native place. There is abundant evidence from other tion ; but Timothy, by the mother's side and by educa- sources, that Thyatira was celebrated as a seat of this tion a Jew, he readily circumcised, in order to smooth manufacture. Inscriptions have been recently found on his way into the synagogues, and enlarge his opportuni- the spot, which show that the guild of dyers were an ties of preaching Christ.

important corporation in the city. Perhaps Lydia's Providentially prevented from prolonging their stay husband had emigrated on this business, and died at and penetrating to the northern provinces of Lesser Asia, Philippi ; and the trade being prosperons, the widow had braced herself to the effort of conducting it, until | all preachers-led to the spot by the same divine Spirit her boys should come of age.

who conducted Philip from a city of Samaria to the The ancient “Turkey-red” dyers of Thyatira sent desert of Gaza. At last a sermon was preached in the their goods westward for sale in the Roman colonies of praying place, and it took effect. Greece and Macedonia, as our manufacturers send theirs One design of this history is to show believers in all to India and China. Each great factory in Asia must lands and all ages, that the Redeemer is near his people have accredited agents in the several marts of Europe. still, and orders all things for their sakes. The meeting Probably the ship that bore the missionaries across the between Paul and Lydia was arranged in heaven. strait a week before, had carried some bales of purple When the missionaries desired to prolong their stay in cloth for the Roman residents of Philippi ; and the Asia, and to evangelize another province there, the heavy goods might at that time have been slowly vind- Spirit suffered them not : for the same reason that at a ing up the ascent from the shore to the city. Commerce former time the Spirit had not suffered Philip to remain and Christianity in those days, as now, gravitated to the in Samaria, but sent him into the desert. Paul was not same centres, and flowed in the same channels. permitted to remain in Asia, but forwarded hastily across

This honourable woman prosecuted a lawful industry. to Europe ; for a group of women convened in a shed She went into a far country to earn bread for herself and near the town of Philippi, gave the Lord in heaven no rest her children ; and in that far country she found the life until he should send them a messenger to open the way of her sonl. Labour is honourable and healthful. of salvation. The Hearer of prayer could not bear that Merchandise is specially bonourable when it is con- cry another week without an answer ; and so the misducted with truth and righteousness. Merchants are sionaries must leave all other work behind, and hasten channels through which the precious products of the to the spot. There some inquiring souls were thirsting earth flow and reflow, to the places where they are like dry land for the living water ; and Paul was the needed, to minister to the necessities and the comforts vessel chosen to contain it and bear it to the spot. of men. Blessed are those buyers and sellers who, like The Lord opened Lydia's heart so that she attended Lydia

, find in the intervals of ordinary business the to the things that were spoken by Paul. Although no pearl of great price. When they have obtained the true report of the sermon has been preserved, we know well niebes their souls will not again cleave to the dust. what its burden would be. The missionary, not knowWhen they have obtained the peace of God in Christ to ing whether he should have another opportunity, would keep their hearts and minds, they will not be too much preach Christ crucified. He would make plain the way oppressed by care, and not too much distracted by fluctua- of pardon through the blood of the Lamb. Now it is. tions in the market.

intimated that Lydia's heart needed opening ere she could attend to the doctrines of grace. Probably the opening was a process that had been going on for a long

time. From day to day her heart longed more for God; LYDIA.

from day to day her prayer rose more eagerly to the ACTs xvi. 14, 15.

throne. This was the opening : she was growing ALTHOUGH Lydia attended to her business, she did not ready for receiving the gospel. allow it to occupy her whole heart, and absorb all her I think Lydia's heart was opened in some such way time. She took advantage of the Sabbath to rest awhile as the gates of a canal-lock are opened. It is by water from labour ; and her time of rest she filled with the coming in secretly below, and gradually swelling up worship of God, and the society of the good. He who within, that at length the folding-doors allow themselves lays out one talent well, will get it redoubled soon. A to be opened. As long as the water presses from above shed for shelter in a sequestered spot, and a few Jewish and from without, the pressure tends to shut the gates. women for fellow-worshippers, and probably a parchment more firmly, rather than to open them. The lock keeps containing some of the Scriptures as Sabbath lessons itself empty, and resists the offer of the water to come these constituted the extent of her privileges. She used in. But when by secret channels the interior is nearly her little well, and more was given to her.

filled, then the resistance ceases, and the gates are Paul and Silas went to the place on that Sabbath-day. thrown wide. Ah, many an empty heart resists the It was a place for prayer. Perhaps there had never offer of mercy from God; the offer of that mercy rather been any preaching in it. The women had often met, shuts the gates more firmly! But when secretly some and prayed, and parted, with none to speak to them. grace finds its way in, and more follows, and the empty They would read the Scriptures, and, like the Ethiopian space gradually fills, then the enmity disappears, and prince, would bend, and sigh, and weep over“ the Lamb the whole soul opens out to Christ. led to the slaughter ;” but there was no one near who It was by receiving some grace within her heart, could answer their question, “Of whom speaketh the that Lydia was opened to receive more. She was made prophet this ?” They could not understand, and there willing in the day of the Lord's power. was none to guide them. But they persevered. At But the Lord has other keys at hand by which he last a distinguished preacher appeared the greatest of sometimes opens closed hearts. There are diversities

XII.

of operations. The resistance is sometimes gently over- Christians. Here the opposition sprang directly from come by droppings gentle as the dew; and sometimes the Gentiles. the bolts that barred an unbelieving heart are broken As they went on some subsequent occasion to the by terrible things in righteousness. Some sorrow may place of prayer, a slave damsel,“ possessed with a spirit have crushed this industrious widow, and so prepared of divination," followed them, uttering a remarkable her for taking in the healing balm of the gospel. Was testimony in favour of the apostles as the servants of her son disobedient, or her foreman unfaithful; or was the Most High God. This slave was owned by a com. the current of trade changing its channel, and threaten pany of speculators. Great gains might be made from ing to leave her business to break in pieces like a stranded the oracles, half mad and apparently half inspired, ship? By any of these operations, or by others different which she uttered. A copartnership was formed to from all these, the Lord may have conducted the process manage the concern. They bought the slave, and of opening, so that when the word of the kingdom farmed out her oracles to the credulous. This was the came, it found ready entrance.

ordinary form of the heathen oracles. A priestess It is good to wait on the Lord, both for our own re- either permanently possessed, or artificially thrown into freshing and for the quickening of those whoin we love. a raving condition at certain times, was concealed in Watch and pray. We do not know when the Bride- the shrine. From her mouth ambiguous answers issued, groom nay pass. Let us and ours be ever ready to and skilful attendants wrote them down for the superfollow him into the marriage-supper. The Bridegroom stitious inquirers. Wicked men fabricated the impospassed the place of prayer that day on the outskirts of ture, and the wicked spirit availed himself of the Philippi, and Lydia, with her lamp well-trimmed, was prepared deceit. The people were both deceiving and on the alert to hear his approaching footsteps, and being deceived. Such was the moral condition of the follow him to the feast.

community into which the gospel of Christ was making Even the preaching of Paul did not save unless an its entrance. Such was the corruption of that earth opened heart attended to it and took it in. In this upon which the salt was about to be spread. example of primitive preaching, it is made clear that The raving Pythoness followed Paul and his company, more depends on the preparation of the hearer, than crying out in an excited and passionate voice, but emiton the preacher's skill. The Master, in the parable of ting an unexpectedly sober and far-reaching testimony the Sower, bas clearly shown the necessity of two con- in favour of the missionaries and their work. Such a spiring things—the good seed sown, and the ground witness was borne by the possessed man to Jesus when broken soft to receive it. Alas ! how much precious he cried out, “I know thee who thou art, the Holy One seed falls on the beaten wayside, and bears no fruit, of God.” These testimonies were perhaps expressions when hearers' hearts are trodden hard and smooth by a of the victims, emitted at momentary intervals of freeweek of cares and pleasures, and the preaching on the dom contrary to the will of the possessing spirit. PerSabbath takes no effect ! We have in our day, through haps the hope of the captive somehow revived at the God's good hand upon us, much good seed; oh for approach in the one case of the Master, and in the other broken ground! The preparation of the heart is from of his servant Paul. So the captives lately held in the Lord.

cruel bondage by the Emperor of Abyssinia remained Lydia and her house were admitted into the Church quiet, and seemed submissive to the tyrant, while no by baptism. Glad and grateful, she offered hospitality help was near, but changed their tone and defied him to the strangers, and pressed them to accept it. From when the British army appeared at Magdala. This them, or at least through them, she had received an enthralled human spirit seemed to speak out with immeasurable spiritual good ; and it is the instinct of courage when deliverance was nigh. her new nature to take pleasure in inparting temporal When this had continued many days Paul was grieved things to the servants of her Lord. Here, in Lydia's at the interruption, and had compassion on the captive. opened heart, rises the spring which the Master has Remembering the commission given by the Lord to his provided to supply the teniporal wants of his ministers, ministers, he cast the evil spirit out by the name and in all lands and all times.

power of Jesus Christ. The slave was restored to her right mind. No more the wild rolling eye, and no longer the fitful, incoherent ravings which the evil spirit had

palmed upon the people as superhuman inspirations. THE PYTHONESS.

But the investnient of the greedy shareholders had lost its value. “We paid so many thousands to her owner

for this woman, and now, though we possess the legal HITHERTO in the experience of the missionaries perse- right to her services as a slave, all that she will bring cution had always originated with the Jews. At this in that capacity will not reimburse us for a tithe of our place, however, they were few and destitute of influence. outlay.” Here is a predicament. The gains are gone ; In these parts of the empire the Jews were theniselves Paul and Silas are the cause of all the loss. A mod is crushed, and so they lacked the power to crush the gathered ; a tumult is excited; an assault is made upon

XIIL

Acts xvi. 16-24.

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