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it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob: and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Sion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." So likewise Isaiah, in his prophetic strain, had foreshown the glory of Jerusalem : and as if beholding the dawn from afar, had said, (Ix. 1.) Arise, shine, for thy light is come; and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising."
When those who were really looking for the fulfilment of the promises, as Zacharias, and Simeon, and Anna, were made acquainted with the birth of the infant Saviour, they all with one accord exclaimed, Now has "the Lord remembered his holy covenant, and raised up a horn of salvation for us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers."2 In like manner when the Jews at Antioch saw almost the whole city coming together to hear the word of God, we might expect them to unite in saying, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel! The day-spring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death."3 Now we understand what the prophets foretold, which are read in our synagogues every sabbath day. "Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows ?"4
They are flocking to verify the promise, "The abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee."5
Alas! A very different spirit prevailed among the Jewish body.
45. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were
spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.
46. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
47. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.6
In the counsels of God it was necessary that the gospel should be preached "to the Jew first, and afterward to the Gentile." It was not until after the invitation had been issued to the regular guests, that messengers were sent to the highways and hedges, and the mixed multitude gathered in. The "calling of God is without repentance," and Israel was his chosen people: "at Salem was his tabernacle, and his dwelling-place in Sion."
Now, however, the light was come, and the glory of God had risen at Jerusalem. But Jerusalem herself refused to " arise and shine."7 Her people preferred the "gross darkness" by which they were covered, to the light which had come into the world. They rejected their own mercy: and they to whom the offer was first made, put it from them, and judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life: leaving an example to all future ages, lest they also perish "through an evil heart of unbelief."8
s Is. Ix. 5; foreign nations in abundance, visited by sea. 6 Is. xlix. 6. 7 Is. Ix. ut supra.
Unworthy of everlasting life, we must all continue to the end. "We do not presume to come before God, trusting in our own righteousness, but in his manifold and great mercies." But God counts as worthiness, a thankful acceptance of his mercy, a lively faith in his promises: a willing movement of the heart towards Him, whom he himself has made "the Lord our righteousness." The unworthiness of these persons, was the unworthiness of those who " profess to know God, but in their works deny him:" '' who love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report;" these had no charms for them: they had nothing in common with such things. Therefore they must "eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices:" "for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord.''9
B Heb. iii. 12. 9 Prov. i. 31, 29.
A COMPANY OF BELIEVERS FORMED AT ANTIOCH. THE APOSTLES ARE DRIVEN FROM THE NEIGHBOURHOOD.—A. D. 45.
Acts xiii. 48—52.
48. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
49. And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.
The Lord Jesus had affirmed that "no man can come unto him, unless the Father draw him:" and had also said, "All that the Father giveth me, shall come unto me."4
Here were those manifestly drawn of the Father. They had followed Paul and Barnabas; and after hearing them, had desired that their doctrines might be more fully explained. Of these hearers some probably had dropped off, not persuaded to continue in the grace of God. Others were glad, and embraced the faith, and glorified the word of the Lord.
1 John vi. 44. Ibid. 37.
Seeing this, and well knowing that it could not be except through the power of the Holy Ghost, St. Luke speaks of them in an unusual phrase, As many as were ordained to eternal life believed. The same words had been addressed to all. All had heard the same assurance: "Beit known unto you, men and brethren, that through this Jesus is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins." But one party, from the first, had heard these words with indifference, and then with opposition and enmity. The others, meanwhile, had shown, first, interest, then earnestness, then thankful joy: readiness of mind to hear, and humbleness of heart to receive the gospel. Such a spirit can be given of God alone: and when he saw it given, the writer at once refers it to God's will and pleasure, who "had not appointed them to wrath, but to obtain salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ."2
Look now on the other side; on those who did not believe; and therefore were not ordained to eternal life. When they saw the multitude, they were filled with envy, and spoke against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. This was their exclusion. There was indeed a difference, a separation; but they made it for themselves. The door was not
5 See 1 Thess. v. 9. Much has been written concerning the word Terayfxevoi, ordained, as signifying those prepared, set in order, disposed. Here, however, is an ambiguity. We shall not rightly interpret the phrase, unless we bear in mind that the word can never describe men as prepared, set in order, or disposed for anything of themselves.