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Nicator, one of the most successful captains of Alexander the Great. It was afterward denominated Tetrapolis, (i. e. fourfold city,) being divided, as it were, into four cities, each of them having its proper wall, hesides the common one by which the whole was surrounded. It frequently suffered by earthquakes, but was not utterly destroyed, till it had been reduced by Bibaris, a sultan of Egypt. Its walls were flanked with four hundred square towers, strongly built, of which many remain to this day, and are remarkable for being each of them furnished with a cistern. It is reported to have been the birth-place of Luke, the evangelist ; of Theophilus, to whom he addressed his writings ; and of Ignatius the martyr, its celebrated bishop.
Here, as we have related in the former chapter, a very flourishing church had been collected, through the preaching of those excellent men who had been dispersed abroad, on account of the persecution of Stephen. The Christians at Antioch, experiencing in themselves that abundant consolation which the gospel of the blessed Redeemer is calculated to afford, longed to impart the benefits which they enjoyed to their neighbours, who were lying in darkness, and therefore cast a wishful eye on the countries around them. On the south, at Damascus, Cæsarea, and Jerusalem, considerable bodies of Christians had been collected, who were sedulously and successes fully engaged in evangelizing the towns and villages which were scattered in their vicinity. On the west, at a small distance from their shores, lay the large island of Cyprus, the immense woods of which had loug been sufficiently thinned, to allow room for the erecting a great number of populous cities, whose inhabitants were richly furnished with the comforts of life, and awfully disgraced by their practice of debauchery. On the east, the provinces which formerly composed the most essentialparts of the Babylonian and Assyrian empires contained, probably, a much greater number of Jews, than had even returned to their native country in consequence of the decree of Cyrus. These descendants of Abraham had established synagogues for their edification in religion, to which were annexed schools for the instruction of their youth, and the formation of future rabbies ; had enjoyed their principles with safety, while their brethren in Judea were bleeding beneath the tyranny of the Syrian princes ; and had frequently resorted, as opportunity had occurred, to worship the God of their fathers in the temple of Jerusalem. On the north was Cilicia, which had given birth to Saul, the celebrated convert ; and had, no doubt, reaped considerable benefit from his labours. Proceeding further in the same direction, and crossing that ridge of mountains which is denominated Taurus, the traveller enters upon a very considerable peninsula, which the Greeks had -distinguished from the rest of the continent by the appellation of Asia Minor. It contained Cappadocia, Isauria, Lycaonia, Pamphylia, the two Phrygias, Pisidia, Caria, Lycia, the proconsular Asia, in which the seven churches were afterwards founded ; Bithynia, Mysia, Paphlagonia, Pontus, and several other subdivisions, some of which changed their pames, in consequence of their passing under the dominion of different conquerors. In all of these last enumerated provinces, the Greek language was familiarly known, though many of them made use of dialects, or even languages, peculiar to themselves.
Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers of great note, particularly Barnabas, a generous Levite, who had given up the whole of his estate to charitable uses ; and Simeon, who was also called Niger, or the Black, from his swarthy complexion ; and Lucius thé Cyrenian, a native of Africa ; and Manaen, a person of considerable rank, who was educated with Herod the tetrarch in his father's court, yet thought it po disgrace to appear as a Christian minister ; and to mention no more, Saul, that remarkable convert, whose labours in the church were, as we shall further learn, so eminently useful. And, as they were ipinistering
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to the Lord in public, and joined fasting to prayer, the Holy Spirit, by immediato revelation, said, Separate, to me Barnabas and Saul for the extraordinary work-of preaching the gospel among the Gentiles, to which I have now expressly called them.
Being thus sent forth by the Holy Spirit, Saul and Barnabas went first to Seleucia, a considerable port in the Mediterranean sea ; and, from thence, sailed to Salamis, the eastern port of the island of Cyprus. Here they preached in the Jewish synagogues, and were occasionally assisted by John, whose surname was Mark. And, having travelled through the whole island as far as Paphos, which lay on its western coast, they found there a certain Jew, who was a magician and false prophet, whose name was Bar-Jesus, or the son of one Jesus, or Joshua. This was a person who was much regarded, and was, at that time, in great favour with the Roman proconsul there, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man, of a steady conduct and thoughtful temper, ready to inquire after truth, and capable to judge of its evidence, who, having received sonie general intelligence of their character and messages, sent some of those that were about hiin, and, calling for Barnabas and Saul, desired to hear the word of God, that he might know what was the purport of their preaching, and what regard was due to the doctrine which they taught. But Elymas, or the magician, (for that was the meaning of his name Elymas, when translated into the Greek language) as he was sensible that he should be no more regarded if their doctrine was received, set himself, all be could, to hinder the effect of it, and withstood them in their preaching ; endeavouring, in a crafty way, by a variety of false insinuations which he used, to turn away the proconsul from embracing the faith. As it was proper that this bold blaspbemer shwould be signally arrested in his op position to the truth of God, Saul, after having severely reproved him for his si, informed him that, for a season, he should be deprived of the benefit of sight ; and this denunciation was immediately fulfilled, to the great astonishment of all that were present, and to the conversion of the proconsul and many others.
It is in the course of this narration Acts xiii.9.7 that Saul is first called Paul; a name which he not only sustains henceforth wherever mentioned by the historian, but also constantly makes use of throughout his epistolary writings. Some, says Dr. Doddridge, hare thought the apostle had, originally, two, names; and, many nthers, that he changed the former for the latter, either out of deference to Sergius Paulus, or to the Gentiles among whom he now preached, so much as to be called, by way of emigence, (though not in strict appropriation) their apostle. But Dr. Doddridge thinks Beza's account of the matter most easy and probable ; that, having conversed litherto with Jews and Syrians, to whom the name of Saul was familiar, and now coming among Romans and Greeks, they would naturally pronounce his name Paul ; as one, whose Hebrew name was Jochanan, would be called, by the Greeks and Latins, Johannes ; by the French, Jean; by the Dutch, Hans ; and by the English, John. Beza thinks the family of this proconsul might be the first who addressed or spoke of him by the name of Paul. • Having thus performed the work of God in Cyprus, Paul and his company sailed to Perga, a town in Pamphylia, a province which joined to Cilicia along the northern coast of the Mediterranean sea. But John, surnamed Mark, perceiving that they intended a long tour in these parts, and that they were like to mect with much opposition a mong the idolatrous Gentiles, to whom they were carrying the gospel, could not, by all the warmest remonstrances of Paul; and his own uncle Barnahas, be persuaded to share their labours and dangers in so excellent a cause ; but, taking the opportunity of a vessel, which he found in that port, bound for Palestine, he withdrew hinself from them, and returned to Jerusalem.
· Departing from Perga, the holy missionaries proceeded to Antioch, a considerable city in the district of Pisidia, which lay north of Pamphylia, and consequently farther from the sea. And entering into the Jewish synagogue on the sabbath-day, they sat down among those that were worshipping there. And, after the customary reading of the proper section for the day out of the law, and another out of the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue, koowing, in general, the public character which the two celebrated strangers sustained, and being curious to hear from their own mouth that new doctrine which had made so much noise in other places, sent one of the inferior officers to them, saying, Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation to the people, or any declaration to make which may conduce to the edification of the assembly, speak it freely, as this is the proper season of doing it. Then Paul stood up, and, at considerable length, recounted the dealings of God with the Israelitish nation, from the time of their dwelling strangers in Egypt, to the exalting of David to the sovereign power. Thence he made a rapid transition to the incarnation of Jesus Christ, his death, and his resurrection, the last of which he confirmed by appealing to the prophecies of God. He concluded with declaring the unspeakable happiness of such as, believing in him, received that justification which the law of Moses could never confer, and exhorting them to beware lest that should come upon them which was spoken by the prophets. [Isa. xxviii. 14.] Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish : for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. The Jews appear to have made no reply to this discourse ; but the Gentiles, who, out of curiosity, were many of them assembled there on the fame of the arrival of such celebrated men, earnestly desired that these words might be spoken to them again the following sabbath, when they promised to attend themselves, and to bring as many of their friends as they could : and thus the assembly broke up for that time. This sermon was, however, not without success ; for we find that many, both of the Jews and devout proselytes, followed Paul and Barnabas, who persuaded them to continue in the grace of God which they had now received. .
The next sabbath, a large multitude of the Gentiles being gathered together to hear, the unbelieving Jews were filled with envy, and blasphemously contradicted those truths which were asserted by Paul. In consequence of this treatment, Paul and Barnabas declared their intention of turning to the Gentiles ; from which time, it is probable, that though they still laboured for the benefit of the Jews wherever they came, yet the conversion of the Gentiles became a peculiarly important object of their attention. In the mean time, great numbers of the Gentiles were converted ; and as these united their labours with those of the apostles, the word of the Lord was borne on as with a mighty torrent throughout all that region, which, by this means, was watered as with a river of salvation. But the Jews, provoked beyond all patience at such a conduct and at such success, stirred up some devout women of considerable rank, who, having been proselyted to their religion, were peculiarly zealous for it; and also applied themselves to the magistrates of the city, representing these new preachers as exciters of sedition and innovators in religion, who might occasion danger to the state ; and thus they raised a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their territories with violence and infamy. But they, when they were going from the boundaries of that place, shook nff the dust of their feet for a testimony against them, as their Lord had commanded his apostles to do, in token of the certain ruin which should befal such despisers of his gospel. (Mark vi. 11.) And, departing from thence, they came to the neighbouring city of Iconium, and there renewed the proclamation of those glad tidings which many of the inbabitants of Antioch had so ungratefully rejected. · But the disciples who were left there were filled with great joy, that so blessed a message bad reached their hearts; and as Paul and Barnabas had laid their bands upon them, they were furnished with an abundant communication of the gifts as well as graces of the Holy Spirit ; whereby they were not only confirmed in the fain which they had newly embraced, but were also rendereil capable of carrying on the interests of Christianity in that place, when the first planters of their church could no longer continue to cultivate and water it.
At the city of Iconium they made a long stay, and were not destitute of success, a great multitude, both of Jews and Gentiles, being converted to the faith. The hatred of the unbelieving Jews, however, gradually diffused itself among their idolatrous neighbours, till the city became divided into two parties, the one encouraging, and the other persecuting, the apostles. At length, the more turbulent party prevailed, and even got the consent of their rulers to seize upon thein, and stone them. Paul and Barnabas, therefore, baving learned their intention, made their escape, and fled to Lystra and Derbe, both cities of Lycaonia.
There happened one circumstance while they were in these parts which was much taken notice of; and, as it gave occasion to a remarkable occurrence, it will not be improper to relate it particularly, There sat a certain man at Lystra who was disabled in his feet, and thereby rendered incapable of providing a maintenance for himself, being so lame from his mother's womb that he never had walked at all. Now it so. happened, that, in some place of public resort near which he was laid to beg for alms of those that passed by, this man heard Paul speaking, who, fixing his eyes upon him, and seeing, by the ardour and humility which was expressed in his countenance, that he had faith sufficient to be healed, and finding also in himself that the power of Christ was to be displayed on this occasion, directed his speech to the poor eripple; and said with a loud voice, in the hearing of all that were assembled there, as one that was conscious of the divine authority by which he then acted, Arise, and stand upright on thy feet : and the lame man immediately attempted it, in a believing dependance on the power of Christ, which wrought so effectually in him, that he leaped up at once from the place where he sat with an astonishing agility, and not only stood upright, but walked about as firmly and steadily as if he had been accustomed to walk from his infancy. And the multitude who were present when this wonderful cure was wrought, seeing what Paul had done by only speaking a word, were all in raptures of astonishment, and lifted up their voices in loud acclamations, saying in the Lycaonian language, The gods are descended from heaven to us in the form and likeness of men, And, perceiving Barnabas to be a person of the better presence and of the more majestic port, they called him Jupiter ; and Paul, who was a little active man, they called Mercury, because he was the leader of the discourse, on which account they thought he might more probably be their god of eloquence. And the priest of that Jupiter who was esteemed the tutelar deity of that place, and whose image was therefore placed in a temple erected to him before their city in the suburbs, not far from the place where the miracle was wrought, immediately brought oxen crowned with garlands, according to their usual manner, to the gates of the place where Paul and Barnabas were, and would, with the inultitude, have offered sacrifice to them, to acknowlege the obligation they were under to them for this condescending and beneficent visit, and to take this opportunity of imploring their continued protection in their public and private affairs. But as they were leading on the sacrificial procession towards them, the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, hearing of the purpose for which it was intended, were struck with a becoming horror at the proposal, and rent their
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mentles, in token of that mixture of indignation and sorrow with which they bebeld this strange abuse of a miracle wrought to destroy that idolatry which from thence they took occasion to practise ; and, in this moving and expressive manner, they ran in among the multitude, crying out with the greatest earnestness, Why do ye offer these honours to us? for we are men, subject to the same infirmities as yourselves, and are coine for this express purpose, to teach you the worship of that God who is the only Creator of heaven and earth, and who has long endured your idolatrous practices ; but never lest himself without witness, so reguiating the scasons as to supply you with the comforts of life. Saying these things, they did with difficulty restrain the people from paying them divine honours.
This is an humiliating picture of human weakness ; but it is not finished until we obserye, that these very men who thus strove to raise Paul and Baroabas to the rank of deities were, a little time after, so incensed against them through the malignity of the Jews, that they stoned the former of these illustrious ministers; and, supposing him to be dead, dragged him out of the city, and left him to be meat for the fowls of beaven. But as the disciples were gathered about him, with a vicw of performing the last office of affection to him, in bearing him to his funeral with proper regard, to their unspeakable surprize, they found him so restored by the power of Christ, that he immediately rose up as in perfect health ; and his bruises were so healed, that he entered into the city again; and was not only able to walk about it, but the next day found that he was capable of undertaking a journey; and departed with Barnabaş to Derbe, a city of Lyeaonia, on the borders of Cappadocia, as they did not think it convenient to proceed in their progress to Galatia, Phrygia, or any more distant province. And having preached the gospel at Derbe, to the inhabitants of that populous city, and made a considerable number of disciples there, they trod back the road they had taken, and returned first io Lystra again, and then to Iconium and Antioch in Pisidia, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue sted fast in the faith, seeing that through great tribulation we must inter the regions of eternal felicity. Haviog ordainod elders in every church, and committed them to God by fasting and prayer, they returned to Antioch through Pisidia and Pamphylia. On their arrival at Antioch, they collected together the church, and related what they had experienced of the blessing of the Lord attending their labours, a narration which we have no reason to doubt filled the minds of the disciples with : joy and gladness.
It will appear surprizing to such as have not well considered the depravity of the human heart, that so soon after the first propagation of the gospel, while the apostles were yet living, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit possessed by a great number of disciples, men should have gone forth from Judea, and sought to persuade the newly converted Gentiles that, notwithstanding all that Paul and Barnahas had taught them, they could not be made partakers of salvation unless they submitted to the circumcision of Moses. As much dissension prevailed upon this occasion, it was determined by the church at Antioch to send the two holy men whom we have just mentioned to consult with the apostles and elders at Jerusalem, as being of the longest standing in the Christian faith. After much consultation, it was at length determined, that no other burden should be laid upon the Gentiles, than that they should abstain from meats offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from fornication. It has been controverted among the moderns, whether the apostolical precept to abstain from blood is to be understood as only temporal and occasional, a sort of accommodation to the weakness of the Jewish converts, or perpetual, founded on moral principles, aud consequently still obligatory. The former opinion is the most prevalent; but the