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"They are not of the Father, but of the world."9 And "the time is short." "The Lord is at hand." "Our conversation is in heaven." "We look not at the things which are seen, and are temporal; but at the things which are unseen, and eternal."
Such were those, who were called Christians first in Antioch. We have the same Lord, the same faith, the same baptism. And we, too, are called Christians. Let it be with us as with them. Their faith and their practice were one. They received the doctrine, not to be acknowledged, but to be acted on. When all were dead, Christ died for all, that they which live, might live to him.1 And so to live, is to be " his disciples indeed."2 They who do so live, will be known as Christians, not only in this present world, but in the sight of men and angels at the great day.
9 1 John ii. 17. 1 2 Cor. v. 15. * John viii. 31.
THE CHRISTIANS OF ANTIOCH SEND RELIEF TO THEIR FELLOW CHRISTIANS IN JUDEA—A. D. 44.
Acts xi. 27—30.
27. And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.
28. And there stood up one of them, named Agabus, and signified by the spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Ccesar.}
Among the various gifts bestowed upon some members of the early church, was this of prophecy: not merely the interpretation of scripture, as the word often signifies, but the knowledge of events to come. This same Agabus who now foretels a famine, appears again after an interval of sixteen years, and predicts the dangers which awaited Paul at Jerusalem.2 God therefore, it is plain, '' gave some to be prophets."3 This was among the operations
1 As this famine is known to have happened in the year 44, we have here a certain date, and are sure that all the events hitherto related, had taken place within eleven years of our Lord's ascension. The phrase all the world, is not meant to signify more than the whole country of Judea, and the parts adjoining.
2 Ch. xxi. 10. 3 Eph. iv. 11.
of the Spirit which he saw necessary for the welfare of the church which he designed to raise.
29. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwell in Judea:
30. Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
As far as we know or have reason to believe, this is the first transaction of the kind in the history of the world. Certain inhabitants of Antioch meet together, and hearing of a general calamity by which the inhabitants of another country, a distant and unconnected country, are brought into distress, make a common contribution, every man according to his ability, and send it for their relief.
If men enter upon a new course of conduct, we conclude that some new motive has been brought to bear upon them. In the present case what was that motive? They determine to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea. But men had always been brethren, descended from the same Father. They had always been united under a common lot, made subject to common calamities, which may be much alleviated by being shared. Still they had not been brought to look on one another in this light, as objects of mutual interest and assistance. Every man had "looked on his own things," and no man on "the things of others." Their private interests absorbed and employed them.
Now, however, a new system begins. A new influence was coming into operation. Those who were united in the christian faith were bound together by ties which could not be unavailing. The love of God manifested in so extraordinary a manner towards themselves had set them an example which they must imitate, had imposed on them a duty which they must needs perform. St. John has explained this:4 "Brethren, herein was love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." We ought to love one another, when he has given us this proof of the way in which he regards mankind. We ought to love one another, because such is the will and the command of him who so loved us. And " he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?"5 If he love not the children who are before his eyes, how can he love the Father who is far above out of his sight, but who has required this proof of his gratitude, this offering of a heart thankful for the benefits which it has received?
But there was another reason why these Christians were forward to assist their suffering brethren in a way which had not before been usual. They had learnt to look upon the things of this world in a new light. They had learnt to see their possessions as something beyond means of private enjoyment, or personal gratification: to see them as 4 Eph. iv. 10. 5 John iv. 20.
given for a purpose, and to be employed for a purpose. The bent of the heart is shown by the manner in which these earthly things are used. And the heart is shown to be rightly bent, when they are used to honour and serve the Almighty giver.
'"The children of this generation" see but one use of wealth: how they may most fully gratify the inclination which urges them most strongly: whether it be to hoard up stores which their family may afterwards enjoy, or whether it be to follow a course of vanity and self-indulgence. Too commonly, their language is that expressed in our Lord's parable; "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years. Take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry."6 Then, in the pursuit of the objects which gratify them, their fortune is engaged: and even if they had the inclination to be charitable, they have not left to themselves the means.
It is not so with one who has received the faith of Christ as the rule by which he is to live. He knows that this world's good is a talent placed in his hands, of which he is to make use in conformity with the will of him to whom he owes it. That will is laid down in terms too clear to be mistaken. (1 Tim. vi. 17.) "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy: that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to com6 Luke. xii. 19.