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The apostle, however, must speak" not as pleasing men, but God:" and therefore he takes away the foundation on which he knew that they would ground themselves: he holds up Jesus Christ to them as justifying from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses.
Undoubtedly that law had said, (Lev. xviii. 5,) "Ye shall keep my statutes and my judgments; which if a man do, he shall live in them."8 . Undoubtedly the law had said, (Deut. vi. 25,) "It shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us."
But, then, who had thus kept the statutes and the judgments, according to all the things that are written in the law blameless? Who could plead that he had fulfilled the two great commandments of the law—to go no farther—had loved God with all his heart, and his neighbour as himself? Whose righteousness would stand, when examined after this strict rule 1 And therefore their own David had said, "There is none righteous, no not one." "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, who shall stand 1" "In thy sight shall no man living be justified."
Thus far then it was plain that they could not be justified by the law of Moses.
But they might set up another plea, and urge that the law of Moses foresaw transgression, and provided for it, by the appointment of those sacri8 Compare Ezek. xx. 11.
fices which day by day, and year by year, were offered.
It did so. But they might perceive, on reflection, that these sacrifices could not be a real atonement for sin. They might furnish a type or emblem of atonement. They might foreshow God's purposes, and give an intimation of his counsels. They might keep up a sense of sin and of condemnation. But it was "not possible that the blood of bulls or of goats should take away sins."9 There could not really be in them any substitution of the innocent for the guilty, the redeemer for the sinner. The sacrifice itself gave proof of this. For if the sacrifice had been sufficient, then would the worshippers once purged (or justified) have had no more conscience of sins.'" But the sacrifices of the law were offered daily, and were offered annually: and even the priest who offered them was himself included among those who needed propitiation. Whilst he offered atonement for the people, he must confess himself guilty as themselves.
Such sacrifices, then, could have no real efficacy: though God might.declare his acceptance of them for a while.
But now He had appeared, who was the substance of all these shadows: and by him all that believe are justified from all things. He who, "after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God: for by one offering he ha9 perfected for ever them that are sanctified."2
9 Heb. x. 4. 1 Heb. x. 2.
We may presume that these were the arguments by which Paul established the conclusion which he here lays down. Because in his epistles he proves on these grounds that " a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ:"3 that this is " the righteousness of God which is unto all and upon all them that believe."4
And now, since all the promise had come to pass which was made unto the fathers: since God had fulfilled the same, and given them the sure mercies of David:—since he had not suffered his Holy One to see corruption,—but raised him up to be a Prince and Saviour:—let them learn the faithfulness of God, the certainty of his word, and beware, lest other prophecies should also be accomplished which spoke not of mercy but of judgment.
40. Beware therefore, lest that come upon you which is spoken of in the prophets;
41. 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.6
That some despisers, some unbelievers were foreseen, was manifest from the tenor of many prophecies. Let those who now received the message of salvation, beware of being those despisers. The
» Heb. x. 13. » Gal. ii. 16. 4 1 Rom. iii. 22.
5 Isa. xxix. 14. Hab. i. 5.
words of promise had been fulfilled: so likewise would the threatenings of vengeance be verified, if they should '' cast away the law of the Lord of hosts, and despise the word of the Holy One of Israel." 6
THE GOSPEL PREACHED BY PAUL AND BARNABAS IS RECEIVED BY THE GENTILES AT ANTIOCH, AND OPPOSED BY THE JEWS.—A. D. 45.
Acts xiii. 42—47.
42. And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
43. Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
The time had not yet come, when these converts could know the real nature of the course on which they were entering. Like persons setting out for a distant country, and filled with lively hope, for a while their new prospects would sustain them, and as the Ethiopian baptized by Philip, they would "go on their way rejoicing." But there is still a malicious adversary, seeking whom he may per
8 Isa. v. 24.
vert: there is still a tempting world; there is a deceitful heart, and dangerous friends, and habits long indulged, and passions which may slumber for a while, and yet revive. To his own disciples, the Lord had said; "Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea is now come, when ye shall be scattered, every man to his own."3
All this was well known to Paul and Barnabas; who therefore exhorted and warned them, and persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. Not to be disheartened by the opposition which awaited them, the trials they must encounter from a corrupt nature in a sinful world. "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." He who had opened that kingdom to them, had set the example, as he had also given the warning: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."
44. And the next sabbath-day came almost the whole city together, to hear the word of God.
Here then was an accomplishment of the many prophecies, which had spoken of a light issuing from Jerusalem, of a salvation which her sons should bring; and of a multitude which should embrace the blessings offered them. (Mic. iv. 1.) "In the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills ;—and people shall flow unto
3 John xvi. 31.