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This bold and animated address was scarcely fufficient to divert them from their purpose. It appears, then, that these primitive affertors of the Christian faith had no felfith views, and might declare, with the greatest sincerity, “ We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord *.” God forbid, that any, who sustain the ministerial office, should aim at their own exaltation, or be pleased with the flattering speeches and admiration of their hearers! They fhould desire to obtain the approbation of their fel. low-creatures no farther, than as it may give them an opportunity of recommending the Saviour. Being chiefly concerned for his glory, they will be grieved, when He is overlooked, and they themselves are extravagantly praised.
Popular favour is a poor acquisition : " it is a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away t." The
people at Lystra, who had proposed to worship St. Paul as a deity, being soon. afterwards prejudiced by the objections of certain furious persecutors from Antioch and Iconium, ross up with violence against him, and stoned him. They then dragged him out of the city, with marks of extreme contempt, and left him as one dead. Here, therefore, the history of our Apostle was on the point of being concluded. But the Lord God, who designed him for more extensive usefulness in the Church, interposed for his deliverance Accordingly, being suddenly and miraculously restored to his former strength, and not terrified by his enemies, he returned to the city, and the next day travelled with Barnabas to Derbe. It were easy for the Lord to rescue his servants from every danger and distress Let us learn to commit ourselves cheerfully to his disposal, desirous only, that, whatever events may
2 Cor. iv, sa
+ James iv. 14.
await us, “ Christ may be magnified in our body, whether it be by life or by death *.'
At Derbe they preached with vigour and success; and there finished their progress for that time, advancing no farther into the country. They went back by the same road, a.id again visited the places, in which they had met with fuch violent opposition. Trufting in the divine prote&tion, they dreaded noconsequences to themselves; and they were solicitous to confirm and comfort those, who had received the word. They exhorted the disciples, therefore, throughout that region, to maintain their Christian p:o:10:1 under all their afflictions, and reminded their, at God has appointed his people to pass through many trials in the road to his kingdom. At the several towns, where churches were gathered, they ordained ministers over them for their spiritual guidance, and folemnly commended them all to the care and protection of the Lord Christ. Much regard is due to young converts, and much pains should be used to establith them in their holy calling, that they may not, by any temptations, be moved away from the hope of the Gospel. O be encouraged to persevere through all opposition, and “hold fast that which you have, that no man take your crown +!" Be not unwilo ling to suffer : the cross must be your present portion ;it is your duty to bear it cheerfully, in the expectation of receiving the crown of life.”
At length these indefatigable labourers returned to Antioch in Syria,. from which place they had first set out on their important expedition. There they fixed their abode for some time, that they might enjoy the society of the faithful, and to them they recounted the various instances of support and success, with which they had been favoured in their ministry among the:
Shall not we, alfo, cultivate an inter-
p Reva iii. .11.
course with those, who know and love the Lord ? And, when admitted to their friend thip, fall we not embrace the opportunity of declaring, or enquiring after, the enlargement of the Church ? Hath God
opened the door of faith” to those, who were in darknets ? Let this be proclaimed with grateful adoration; for no information can be more interesting or delightful. Compared with this, how trilling and foolith are the subjects, which generally occupy conversation! How grievous is the stupidity of men, who, though eager to hear or relate every idle occurrence, bave no defire to be acquainted with the glorious work, which God is carrying on by the Goppel of his Son!
St. Paul and his companion were now called to different trials, not to contend with furious
adverfaries, but to oppose and correct some dane gerous mistakes among
the brethren. A difension arofe, in consequence of certain Jewish zealots maintaining, tjat circumcision and the observance of the cerem nial law were abfolutely necessary for the sale vation of Gentile believers * Our Apostle considered the sentiment as a destructive error, subverting the very
fou: dation of the Gospel, and therefore set himself to resist it with great firmness. It implied, that the obedience and sacrifice of Christ are not a fufficient ground of dependence towards God, that we cannot be completely justified by faith alone, however fincere, and that our own qualifications or performances have a share, at leait, in procuring our favourable acceptance.
We might have thought, that positions, so directly contrary to the fundamental principles of the Christian system, would have gained no credit. were staggered; and therefore, from a defire of laa tisfying their consciences, and restoring the peace of
the Church, it was agreed that Paul and Barnabas should go to Jerusalem, and take the opinion of the, Apostles and elders upon the subject*. Accordingly, a lolemn council was there held, and the matter fe. riously discussed. A full account of the work of God. among the Gentiles was given; and it was decided, that real believers, among the uncircumcised, should. not be required to conform to the Mosaic rites, but be considered as complete in Christ Jesus. With. this decree the ambasfadors returned to Antioch; and their intelligence produced great joy among the disciples. For that time the dispute was settled; but it broke out afterwards in other places, as appears from. several of St. Paul's Epistles, especially from that. to the Galatians.
Erroneous doctrines of a like dangerous tendency. are propagated in the present day. Circumcision, indeed, is not infifted on; but, as if the merit of the Saviour were not fufficient for our juftitication, it is maintained that our own obedience muit, in part at least, recommend us to God. Satan is ever labouring to divide the Church, and corrupt the minds of its members is from the simplicity that is in Christ to He is the father of lies, and it is his grand artifice: to spread false opinions. It is remarkable, that the infcriptural sentiments, advanced in modern times, made their appearance very early; and were permit: ted to do so, that they might receive a full confutation from the Apostles themselves. Let us beware, of the subtle devices of our adversary, and, in order. the more successfully to resist him, let us study the
It is supposed, that the Apostle refers to this journey, when he.. says, that he “ went up by revelation." Doubtless, he then acted under the influence of the Spirit, and the consultat:on was overruled for the clearer understanding and more explicit declaration of the Gospel. Gal. ii. I-10. † 2. Cor. xi. 3.
divine oracles, which will furnith us with weapons of defence against all the attacks of error.
During St. Paul's continuance at Antioch, he had occafion to speak in language of sharp reprehenfion to St. Peter, who visited the place, and withdrew from the Gentile converts through a fear of displeasing the Jews*. Paul stood forth as a bold advocate for the liberty of the Gospel, maintaining that the Gentiles, who were turned to God by faith, were as fecure through the grace of the Saviour, as the Jews themselves. It was a painful talk to reprove a beloved brother ; but, where the purity of God's truth is likely to suffer, we should make no compliances, nor thew any partialities; we should earnestly contend for the honour of the Gospel, even against our dearest friends.
The Church at Antioch enjoyed the society and the labours of St. Paul for some time. But being eager to extend his usefulness, and confirm the disciples at a distance, he proposed to Barnabas, that they should again visit the people, to whom they had preached, and enquire into their state. The scheme was readily agreed to; and yet it gave occasion to a warm contention, which issued in a separation of these two affectionate companions. We contemplate this circumstance with wonder and grief. But, when we perceive the evident signs of wrong tempers in persons so confessedly eminent, we should learn to place no confidence in the most exalted of human characters, and to keep our own hearts with diligence and care.
The cause of the difference appears trifling; but there is nothing, however inconsiderable, which may not excite and draw forth some latent corruption of the mind : nay, probably, we are most liable to fall by the smallest temptations, which do not
* Gal. ii. 11, Sibe