« AnteriorContinuar »
the Apostles, by bringing only a part of the price which they had received for their land, under the pretence that it was all. They were under no obligation to bring any of it. They might have kept their land, or have kept their money. But they wished to gain some degree of consideration in the church, and therefore resorted to hypocrisy and falsehood. You know with what retribution they were visited. If now Barnabas had had any sinister design in surrendering his property to the Apostles, would not the same searching Spirit who exposed the guilt of Ananias and Sapphira, have brought it out to view ?
The fact that his benevolence is chronicled in contrast with the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira, is highly honorable to his sincerity. He laid his all at the feet of the Apostles, because he had already laid himself at the feet of their Master. Having given the greater why should he withhold the less ? He was a good man—wholly devoted to Christ and his cause.
The next mention which is made of Barnabas is in Acts ix; 27,-a mere passing incident,—which exhibits however his Christian frankness and boldness in a pleasing light. It was when Saul returned to Jerusalem after his conversion, and “ assayed to join himself to the disciples." They were suspicious of him. They felt towards him, much as we should feel towards a lion which we were told was tame and harmless ; we should prefer keeping at a distance from him, till others had tested the change in his nature. “ They were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.” They apprehended that his professed change was a mere artifice to win their confidence, and thus enable him to act against them more effectually. But Barnabas, who had acquainted himself more fully with the circumstances of Saul's conversion, whose own frank and generous disposition made him less suspicious of others, and whose confidence in the power of God led him to credit the story of a change as wonderful as that of the proud and persecuting Pharisee, took him by the hand and “ brought him to the Apostles, and declared to them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him," and how he had gone to Damascus and preached there in the name of Jesus at the hazard of his life. It was an act of Christian kindness in Barnabas thus to countenance a new convert to the faith, and introduce him to the friendship and confidence of his brethren.
Thenceforth Saul and Barnabas were kindred spirits.
We learn moreover, from the context, that Barnabas enjoyed the confidence of his brethren in a high degree. This indeed we might infer from their receiving Saul upon his testimony. But we have still higher proof of it in the fact, that they commissioned him to go and labor at Antioch, as soon as they heard of the remarkable blessing which had there attended the labors of those who were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen. The primary reason for sending Barnabas on this errand may have been, that being a native of Cyprus, he had a better command of the Greek language than the other disciples. But the fact shows also, that his Christian brethren at Jerusalem had the utmost confidence in his piety and his ability to preach the Gospel. I do not mention this as proof that Barnabas was a good man. We are often painfully deceived in those in whom we put the greatest confidence. Of this thc Christian community have had of late some melancholy examples. We look only on the outward appearance, while God looketh on the heart. Yet however much hypocrites may worm themselves into the confidence and affection of others, their true character can hardly fail to be suspected at times, and at length exposed. But a truly good man, on the other hand, can hardly fail to enjoy the strong and unwavering confidence of his brethren through life. And this universal confidence, taken in connection with such traits of character as Barnabas exhibited, is a strong testimonial to moral worth.
At this point in his history, there comes to light one of the most interesting features in the character of Barnabas. I mean his delight in the prosperity of Christ's kingdom, and his zeal in promoting it. The historian, at a single stroke, brings out to view, as it were, the whole soul of Barnabas,-shows us a Christian intent upon his Master's work, and happy in it beyond mea. sure. " Who, when he came to Antioch, and had seen the grace of God, was glad !” How expressive ! Can you doubt that he was a good man whose heart thus leapt for joy when he saw the power and grace of God in turning numbers to Himself! Barnabas entered into this work with his whole soul. “ He exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart, they would cleave to the Lord.” The strain of this exhortation shows the character of his own religion. He exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave to the Lord. His standard of piety was a fixed devotedness of heart to Christ!
Barnabas having secured the assistance of Paul, remained in Antioch a whole year; laboring with much pleasure and success for the edification and increase of the church. It was at this time that the name “ Christians” was first given to the disciples.
That Barnabas enjoyed the full confidence of the brethren at Antioch, is seen in the fact that he was sent by them with Saul to Jerusalem, with means of relief to the brethren there who were suffering by famine. No errand could have been more congenial to his feelings than this.
On their return from Jerusalem, it was resolved by the church at Antioch, under the special guidance of the Holy Spirit, to send a formal mission to the surrounding heathen; and Barnabas and Saul were designated by the same divine authority to this important work. Thus Barnabas found favor in the eyes of God as well as man. We have the testimony of the Holy Ghost to his piety, intelligence and zeal.
This missionary tour was one of great hardship and danger, and yet of great success. It was in the course of it, that Paul and Barnabas were almost worshipped as Gods, and then exposed to all the fury of a mob for their steadfast resistance to such idolatry. Having reported the results of their tour at Antioch, they continued to labor successfully in that city, till the dissension arose there about circumcision. They then went to Jerusalem for advice, and returned not only with the means of adjusting the difficulty, but also with an honorable and voluntary testimonial from the “ Apostles, elders and brethren," to their own character; for they speak of them as their “beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ."
Having disposed of this troublesome question, they determined, with wonderful courage, to re-visit the churches which they had planted in their recent tour, though they knew that they must do so at the hazard of their lives. Yet here, unhappily, we meet with an incident which betrays the imperfection of both Barnabas and Paul. They were unable to agree in respect to a traveling companion, and after a painful contention they separated and went in different directions. In this difficulty, Barnabas seems to have been chiefly to blame, as it was his attach