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may turn from these vanities which you now worship, to the one
living and true God; who made the heaven, and the earth, and 16 the sea, and all things which are in them : who in former gene
rations permitted all the nations to walk in their own ways: 17 though he did not leave himself without witness, doing good, and
giving us showers of rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, fil18 ling our hearts with food and gladness. And saying these things,
they hardly restrained the people from sacrificing to them.
REFLECTIONS. Happy are the ministers of Christ, in the midst of labours and persecution too, if they have the presence of their master with them; and if the Lord, as in this instance, bear witness to the word of his grace. Almighty Saviour, leave us not destitute of that presence - which is our hope and our joy! But bear witness with all thy faithful servants, while they are bearing their testimony to thee ! - Infinite Wisdom governs those revolutions in providence which seem most mysterious. These repeated oppositions which the apostles met with in their work, seemed to threatentheir destruction; but they served in effect to render their testimony more credible, when borne in the midst of so many dangers: They served also to exercise the graces of these new converts ; to add a growing evidence to Christianity throughout the remotest ages ; and they were the means of spreading the Gospel to a greater variety of places, when the apostles were forced to make such short visits at many, through the inhospitality of those from whom they deserved a quite different reception.
The cure of this cripple was but one miracle of a thousand which the power of Christ made common in those days ; the effect of it one way and another was very remarkable : The multitude struck with the exertion of an energy truly divine, by an error to which human nature is, alas ! too incident, fix their eyes on the instruments, and pay that honour to mortal men which was due only to that God by whom that wonderful work was wrought. Yet à mixture of piety amidst all that superstition cannot but strike the mind with some pleasure joined with the compassion we must feel to find it so wretchedly misguided and allayed. When they thought the gods were come down in human form, they were desirous immediately to pay honour to them. The Lord Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh; but alas, in how different a manner was he generally received! received indeed with outrage and infamy, instead of that prostrate adoration to which he had so just a claim. These his servants with an honest indignation reject the homage offered to them, and regard it with horror rather than delight. It was a courageous testimony which they bore to the vanity of these Heathen deities, while surrounded with acorers and their priests. While they confess their own infirmities, as weak and mortal men, they with heroic boldness and sacred truth proclaim the one living and true God, the creator and governor of heaven and eart of the sea, and all that is theriin. Let us adore him, as the author of all the blessings of providence, as giving us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons ; and while our hearts are filled with food and gladness, let our hearts rejoice in him, and to him let us devote that vigour which we derive from his daily bounty. Above all, let us praise him that we have not these witnesses alone, of his presence, his power, and his goodness ; but that he who once left the nations to go on in their own ways, has now revealed unto us the path of salvation, and given us that true bread from heaven, of which if e man eat he shall live for ever,
Paul and Barnabas, driven from Lystra, return through Derbe, &c. to
Antioch in Syria. Ch. xiv. 19, &c.
19 UT, though these apostles made some converts at Lystra, they
were soon interrupted ; for some Jews came thither from Antioch and Iconium, and persuaded the multitude [to persecute
them]. And having stoned Paul, they dragged him out of the city, 20 supposing him to be dead. But as the disciples were gathered
about him, he rose up, and entered into the city ; and the next 21 day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. And having preached
the gospel to that city, and made a considerable number of disci
ples, they returned to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch in Pi. 92 sidiu, confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to
continue in the faith, and testifying that it is necessary we should 23 enter into the kingdom of God through many tribulations. And
when they had, with the concurrent suffrage of the people*, constitute il presbyters for them in every church, having prayed to
God with fasting, they committed them to the Lord, in whom 34 they had believed. And passing through Pisidia, they came 25 to Pamphylia. And having spoken the word in Perga, they 26 went down to Attalia. And they sailed from thence to Antioch ;
from whence they had been 'recommended to the grace of God, 97 for that work which they had accomplished. And when they were
come thither, and had gathered the church together, they related
what God had done with and by them, and how he had opened a 28 door of faith to the idolatrous Gentiles. And they quietly resided
there a considerable time with the disciples.
REFLECTIONS. Who would value himself upon the applauses of a multitude, when he sees how soon these changeable inhabitants of Lystra were instigated to assault him as a malefactor, whom but a few days before they were ready to adore as a god, and how easily they were prevailed upon ! to exchange the instruments of sacrifice for those of murder? They stone him, and drag him out of the city for dead. And who that had seen this lamentable sight would not have concluded, that here the labours of Paul were ended, and that henceforward we shall hear no more of him in this glo us history ? But God, who amidst all their
* The old English Bible translates it, “When they had ordained them elders by election."
outrage secretly preserved the flame of life from being utterly extinguished, interposed miraculously to heal his wounds and bruises, and on a sudden restored him to perfect health. Thus could he awlays have protected his apostles, so that, in a literal sense, not one hair of their heads should have perished ; but it was more suitable to those wise maxims on which he proceeded in the government of the world, to suffer them at length to fall by their enemies, and to pour out their blood as a seal of their doctrine, and of the sincerity with which they taught it ; nor could any death be more glorious, or, when taken in its full connection, any more happy.-With pleasure let us trace these holy nien in all the stages of their undaunted and successful course ; converting some, confirming others, and upon the whole, like their divine Master, scattering blessings wherever they come. Let their exhortation still have its power with us, to engage our stedfast continuance in the Christian faith, through whatever tribulations we are cala led to pass ; be the way ever so rugged and painful, let it be enough for us that it leads to the kingdom of heaven. Thankfully let us own the divine goodness in the assistances we receive as we pass through it, and particularly in that which all ages derive from the Christian ministry, settled in the church by the wise care of its blessed Founder, to be a perpetual blessing to it. May all the prayers which are offered for those, who in succeeding generations are set apart to the work, in those solemn devotions which usually attend their ordination to it, be heard and answered ! And may ministers and people flourish in knowledge and piety, under the constant care of the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls !
The success which attended these two apostles in their course, and the pleasure with which they returned to the place from whence they had so affectionately been recommended to the grace of God, may be an encouragement to our prayers and our labours. Whatever we do in the advancement of the gospel, let us with these holy men acknowledge, that God does it by us ; and let us pray, that the door of faith may be opened so wide, that all nations of the earth may enter in, and be saved.
Some Jewish converts requiring the Gentile Christians to observe the law of
Moses, Paul and Barnabas go to Jerusalem to consult the apostles upon that question. Ch. xv. l-11.
1 ND some Jewish zealots who came from Judea to Antioch,
taught the brethren there, that it was necessary for them to keep the Jewish law ; saying, Except ye be circumcised according 3 to the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. There being there.
fore a contention on this account, and no small debate on the part of Paul and Barnabas against them, they resolved that Paul and Barnabas, and some others of their number, should go up to the
apostles and elders at Jerusalem, to consult them about this quesstion. They therefore being brought forward on their journey by several of the church, went through Phænicia and Samaria, rela
ting to their fellow-christiuns the conversion of the Gentiles; and 4 they occasioned great joy to all the brethren. And being arrived
at Jerusalem, they were kindly received by the church, and by
the apostles and elders : and they related to them what things 5 God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees
that believed, rose up and said, That it was necessary to circumcise them that hud been converted from among the heathen, and to
charge them to keep the whole law of Moses. 6 And the appostles and elders were gathered together to consult - upon this affair. Avd after much debate, Peter rose up and said
to them, Men and brethren, you know that some considerable .' time since, God among us chose * that the Gentiles by my mouth 8 should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, who
knoweth the heart, bare witness to them, giving them the Holy 9 Spirit, even as he did to us : and made no distinction between us 10 and them, having purified their hearts by faith. Now therefore
why do you tempt God, by imposing on the neck of the disciples
a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 1 But we believe, that we ourselves are saved not by obedience to the
law, but by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the same manner as they are.
REFLECTIONS. How early did the spirit of bigotry and imposition begin to work in the Christian church ! that fatal humour of imposing a yoke on the neck of Christ's disciples, by making indifferent things necessary. An unmanly and antichristian disposition ; which has almost ever since been rending the church to pieces, and clamorously throwing the blame on those who have been desirous, on principles truly, evangelia cal, to stand fast in the liberty with which their divine Master hath made them free. How foolish and how mischievous the error, of making terms of communion which Christ has never made ; and how presumptuous the arrogance
of invading his throne, to pronounce from thence damnatory sentences on those who will not, who dare not, submit to our uncommissioned and usurped authority.--Prudent una doubtedly was the part which these Antiochian Christians acted upon this occasion, in sending these messengers to the apostles for their determination : And it will be our prudence, now we can no longer in person consult those ambassadors of Christ, to make their writings the man of our counsel, and the standard both of our faith and worship; appealing to the tribunal of Christ, our master and our judge, from those uncharitable censures which we may sometimes incur even from his faithful though mistaken servants, for retaining the simplicity of that religion which these authorized interpreters of his will taught.
Great joy was occasioned io the churches through which Paul and Barnabas passed, when they recounted the conversion of the heathen :O that such joy may be renewed to us, by the success of all who
* God made choice of us. W.The words among us are wanting in the Syriac version.
with a truly apostolic self-denial and zeal go forth at any time to the vast multitudes of the Gentiles which yet remain on the face of this uncultivated earth of ours, so great a part of which is yet in a spiritual sense a wilderness! Whatever success they may have in one part of our Lord's vineyard, or we in another, let us all remember it is in consequence of what God does by us and by them ; and let us adore the riches of divine grace, to which we owe it, that we are chosen to make a part of God's prople ourselves, and to carry the knowledge and power of his gospel to others.--May our hearts be purified by a vital, and not merely eniightened by a notional faith! May that God who knoweth all hearts, bear witness to us, by giving us his Holy Spirit, to seal us to the day of redemption ! And being under the iniluence of this sacred agent, animated in the most amiable manner to adorn our profession, when we have done all, may we humbly repose our selves upon the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, as knowing that it is only by the rich and free display of it that, after all our labour, obedience, and care, we can expect salvation.
The speech of James, in the assembly at Jerusalem, with their decree in
favour of Gentile liberty. Ch. xv. 12—29.
Gentile converts, the whole multitude kept silence, and at• tended to Barnabas and Paul, relating what signs and wonders 13 God had done among the heathen by them. Then after they
had done speaking, Janies the son of Alpheus answered, saying, 14 Men and brethren, harken unto me. Simon Peter hath been re
lating, how God first looked down on the Gentiles to take from 15 among them a people for his name. And the words of the proph16 ets harnionize with this; as it is written, After this I will return,
and will build up the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; 17 yea I will rebuild its ruins, and set it upright again ; that the re.
mainder of men may seek the Lord, even all the heathen upon
whom my name is called, saith the Lord who doth all these 18 things.* Now all his works are from eternity'known unto God. 19 Wherefore I cannot but determine that we ought not to disquiet 20 those who from among the Gentiles are converted to God, but
only to write to them, that they abstain from the pollutions of
idols, and fornication, and from that which is strangled, and from 21 blood. For Moses, who has plainly forbidden all these hath, from
ancient generations, those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every sabbath-day. So that if the Gentile Christians indulge in any of these things, it will prevent that harmony
with the Jewish converts which the edification of the church requires. 22 Nowo this speech of James being unanimously approved, it seemed
good to the apostles and elders, and all the church, to send to * These words, quoted from Amos ix. 11, 12. are from the translation of the Ixx. who might follow a correcter copy of the Hebrew than the presenta VOL. I.