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TRAVELS OF PAUL AND BARNABAS.
this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him, all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts. xiii. 39). But whilst he so fully proclaimed the grace of Christ, he warned them that the despisers must perish; and afterwards, when they contradicted and blasphemed, he said, “Lo, we turn to the Gentiles." From that time the Jews, for the most part, became persecutors, though a remnant, saved according to the election of grace, still declares that God hath not cast away his people. But it was in this way, as a nation, that the Jews filled up the measure of their sins, and the wrath of God came upon them to the uttermost (see 1 Thess. ii. 14–16). Wherever Paul and Barnabas went, “ some believed, and some believed not." This has been the experience of all the preachers of the Gospel ever since : and as this is so clearly an elective, and not a national dispensation, we do not find, even when the Gospel was proclaimed in greatest power, and accompanied by the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, that any nation, or any city, was formed into a church of God. Hence it is, the church of God which is at Corinth, not the church of Corinth, and so on. “I have much people in this city,” said the Lord, not, all the people in this city.
In Cyprus, Paul wrought a miracle of judgment : at Lycaonia he performed a miracle of grace by the same power; and the idolatrous people, concluding that the gods, of whom their fables told, were come to visit them in the form of men, called Barnabas Jupiter, and Paul Mercurius. The delighted people would have honoured them in deed as well as in word, and Paul could scarcely restrain the priest of Jupiter from offering their sacrifices, by preaching to them the living God, and shewing them that their religious ceremonies were only vanities. Here again the unbelieving Jews interfered, and persuaded the people to let them stone the very men whom they had just before been willing to worship (Acts xiv). Notwithstanding the opposition of the Jews, and the ignorance of the Gentiles, the powerful working of the Holy Ghost was experienced in many souls, and churches were gathered in blessed separation from both.
In every city where there was an assembly of believers, Paul and Barnabas ordained, or set apart, elders, who were guides and overseers of the rest.
THE LAW OF MOSES NOT GIVEN TO THE GENTILES.
At the close of this important mission, they returned to the church at Antioch, and related, not as it were their own doings, but " what God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.”
Whilst Paul and Barnabas still remained among the Christians at Antioch, some men from Judea, without any commandment from the apostles, came and taught the brethren that they could not be saved except they were circumcised, and kept the law of Moses. Paul and Barnabas, as faithful ministers of the grace of God, dissented from them, and disputed with them, and then determined to go to the apostles and elders at Jerusalem, to get this important question settled. As they passed through Phænicia and Samaria, on their way, they declared the conversion of the Gentiles, which caused great joy to all the brethren of the Jewish nation. Upon their arrival at Jerusalem, some of the Pharisees who believed, said it was needful to circumcise the Gentile believers, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. The apostles and elders then came together to consider the matter ; and, after much disputing, the Holy Ghost, by the mouths of Peter and James, decided this question for ever; and an epistle was written in the name of the whole church at Jerusalem, declaring their brotherhood with the Gentile believers, and rejoicing their hearts by telling them they were not to be troubled by Jewish observances, but only to shun the evil around them, by abstaining from meats offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from fornication (Acts. xv).
Nevertheless circumcision, and probably many of the lesser ceremonies of the law, were still practised by Jewish believers ; and as long as an assembly of them remained within the walls of Jerusalem, they differed in this respect from the churches elsewhere. In A.D. 53, Paul himself circumcised Timothy, the son of a Jewess ; though only, it appears, the year before he wrote his epistle to the Galatians, telling them, if they, as Gentile believers, were circumcised, they came under an obligation to do the whole law, and Christ would profit them nothing. The difference seems to be, that the believing Jews knew these ordinances had nothing to do with their justification before God; but, in mercy to their countrymen, they were permitted to use them, in order to win them to Christ, who was “a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to
confirm the promises made unto the fathers.” We have other examples of this in Paul's conduct towards the Jews (Acts xxi. 20–26; 1 Cor. ix. 20).
About A.D. 60, James wrote to the twelve tribes scattered abroad. This, which is rightly called a general epistle, abun. dantly proved God's remembrance of all the seed of Jacob. It would have been impossible to address a general epistle to the Gentiles; but there were some things which were common to all the Jews whether they had believed in Christ or not ; they were brethren (Rom. ix. 3, 4); to them belonged the adoption, and the promises, &c.; and, at the close of their trial, they were called to repentance by James, as they had been by Peter at the beginning (Acts ii. 38). Reproofs are addressed to the quarrelsome iv. 1), worldly (4), doubleminded (8), &c. among them; and suitable warnings to those who were bent on getting gain, or heaping up treasures against the last days. As the Lord had said to the Jewish women, “ Weep for yourselves and your children,” so his servant says to the rich men, “ Weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.” The testimony to the nation probably only excited greater enmity ; but this epistle comforted and instructed “the remnant according to the election of grace," and warned all the professed believers in Christ, that a barren confession of faith would profit them nothing. The observations on this and the other epistles are offered very diffidently; and, in speaking of any particular application of the truths contained in them, to the circumstances of the times, I have no idea of lessening the exceeding value and importance of the general instruction to the whole church of God. • About A.D. 63, when Jerusalem was about to be given up, and the trial of the Jews under the first covenant was just at an end, the epistle to the Hebrews was written; the needed instruction being given in due season. There the passing away of the Jewish dispensation, which we trace through the Acts, is fully unfolded. Precious truth for the church in all ages is contained in this epistle; but the Hebrew believers gained the special instruction from it which was suited to their cir. cumstances. The priesthood of Christ, they learned, took the place of all other priesthood, and rendered utterly useless all that was still going on at Jerusalem ; their worship was no longer to be in the Temple, or according to its ordinances ; it
was to be spiritual worship in the presence of God where Jesus is ;—they must hold fast their profession; for, if anything were put in the place of the blood of the covenant, whereby they were sanctified, it would be sinning wilfully, and only fiery indignation could follow, whereby the adversaries of Christ would be consumed ;—they must not forsake the assembling of themselves together;—they had no continuing city, and were to be ready to go without the camp, bearing the reproach of Jesus. The believers, who meekly received this instruction with obedient hearts, were prepared to bear the breaking up of that establishment in which they formerly gloried; the cessation of sacrifice, the scattering of the priests, the destruction of the Temple, the fleeing from Jerusalem : all which would have been so distressing and terrible to them, simply as Jews, they were reconciled to, by this clear revelation from God.
In looking at Paul's journeyings, and noticing the addresses of his epistles, it is most interesting to remark, that the great cities, which we have hitherto considered in such a different point of view, are the scenes of the display of God's grace. To Macedonia, the source of the second great empire, Paul is called, and the churches in its chief cities sound abroad the praises of the Lord by turning from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven. At Athens, the city so full of idolatry and vain philosophy, a church is gathered, and one of the council of Areopagus belongs to it. Among the learned and luxurious inhabitants of the wealthy city of Corinth, the Lord had much people. At Ephesus, which contained the grandest heathen temple of the world, the word of God mightily grew and prevailed. Troy, which had such poetical fame in the heathen world, is chiefly interesting to the Christian from the remembrance of the company of disciples gathered there to break bread on the first day of the week. At Babylon, we afterwards find, there was an elect church ; and of that at Rome, we have frequent occasion to speak.
In A.D. 60. Paul was called to witness publicly for Christ at Jerusalem; but he was rejected, as Stephen had been, and only escaped death because he had the privileges of a Roman citizen, as he was born in Cilicia, one of the favoured provinces of the empire.
He was accused by the Jews before the two successive
governors of Judea, Felix and Porcius Festus, of whom we shall again make mention; and the latter complimented Agrippa, son of Herod Agrippa, who had been lately made king of a small part of his father's dominions, by bringing before him this remarkable prisoner when he came to visit him at Cæsarea. Festus, in listening to Paul's eloquent defence, failed to understand him, and concluded that much learning had made him mad; but Agrippa, unable to resist the appeal made to the prophets and to his own conscience, said to Pau), “ Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” I would ask you to connect this memorable exclamation with the future history of Agrippa; for we shall find this almost Christian, died an unbelieving Jew.
The innocence of Paul was, however, fully proved, and he might have been set at liberty, had not his appeal to NeroCæsar obliged them to send him to the emperor. Thus was God's purpose to be fulfilled in having a witness to his truth given to the head of the fourth great empire. In A.D. 61, Nero had not begun to persecute the Christians; and he was willing to preserve the life of a Roman citizen from the violence of the Jews : but his savage disposition is powerfully brought before us by the name of lion applied to him by Paul, who wrote as he was moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Tim. iv. 17). The apostle had an opportunity of fully preaching to the Gentiles, and many at Rome, and even in the vicious household of Nero, were made partakers of the salvation of God. These facts bring us to the close of the book of Acts. From A.D. 63 to A.D. 65, it appears that Paul was at liberty to pursue his labours; and it is probable he returned to Rome to strengthen the church during its fiery trial. There is a tradition that the immediate cause of Nero's anger towards Paul, was the conversion of his favourite cup-bearer through his means. The second epistle to Timothy, and the last that this blessed apostle ever wrote, proves that he was looking forward to martyrdom. I am now, says he, ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. He was beheaded by the emperor's command, A.D. 66. Neither Paul nor Peter lived to see the commencement of the Jewish war; but they must have known the city was ripe for destruction. Church historians relate that Peter came to Rome at the time of the persecution, and wrote his epistles there shortly before his decease.