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DELIVERED IN THE SCOTCH SECEDER'S CHAPEL, MILES'S LANE, LONDON, APRIL 11, 1824.
[The personal and relative duties of Christians are from Sabbath to Sabbath, the theme of animating discourses from the pulpit; and the mercies of God our Saviour are daily exhibited to guilty men that they may be saved. I would this morning take a wider range, and digress a little to those duties which Christian churches owe to those still large portions of the great human family, which heretofore have remained unacquainted with revealed religion; and endeavour to ascertain our duty from a review of the past. The subject cannot be so interesting to each individual, as that which concerns his or her personal salvation; but yet, as it concerns the salvation of others, it should not be uninteresting to any Christian.]
THE MISSIONARY'S REHEARSAL.
ACTS, XIV. 26, 27.
"And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles."
BARNABAS and Paul, from Attalia sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God, for the work which they fulfilled; and when they were
come (to Antioch) and had gathered all the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.
He was an inhabitant of Africa, Simon, of Cyrene, who bore the cross of Christ our Saviour, when led forth to crucifixion, and certain men of Cyrene, in Africa, first preached, or told* the good news, concerning the Lord Jesus, to the Grecians at Antioch.
Antioch was a large town, the capital of Syria, about 200 miles north of Jerusalem, (Acts, xi. 20.) Here these African preachers founded a Helenistic,† or Greek proselyte church. Here the disciples were first called Christians, and from this church the first formal Christian Mission was sent forth. This church continued famous for several ages, and produced, 300 years afterwards, the celebrated preacher Chrysostom, the bishop and patriarch.
Barnabas and Saul being separated for the missionary work, to which the Holy Spirit called them, were sent forth, after fasting, prayer, and the laying on of hands. They made a missionary tour of about 1,500 miles, in that part of the then Roman empire now called Asia Minor. They themselves were subjects of the Roman empire, and beyond its limits they did not go. They did not even pass at this time into the European part of the empire. They were absent about two years, speaking, as opportunities offered, both to Jews and Gentiles, concerning the Lord Jesus, and testifying the Gospel of the grace of God. They met with much opposition, and had some success, the Lord working with them, and several Christian societies or churches were formed in different places.
These things occurred about twelve or thirteen years after our Saviour's ascension, whilst Claudius I., the then Emperor of Rome, and his generals, were in Britain, waging
war against the chief, Caractacus, and effecting the conquest of our uncivilized pagan ancestors.
An interesting and edifying narrative of the transactions and discourses of these two divinely appointed Missionaries, is contained in the 13th and 14th chapters of the Acts of the Apostles.
When they returned to Antioch, they gathered the church together, as our text says, and rehearsed all that God had done with them, and now he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.*
The words in which Barnabas and Saul, (or Paul as he was now called, for he seems to have changed his name during his absence,†) rehearsed their transactions, are not given us; but by looking over the narrative, we can ascertain the substance of their rehearsal. At Cyprus, they had, apparently, but one convert; and at this early part of their tour, John, their assistant deserted them, and went from Perga to Jerusalem. At Antioch, in Pisidia, the Jews, their own countrymen, persecuted them, but some of the Gentiles heard the word gladly, and glorified the word of the Lord.
At Iconium, both Jews and Gentiles attempted to stone them to death; at Lystra, the Pagan priests idolized them, and called them gods; at Derbe they preached the Gospel and taught many; and on their return, passing through Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, (at each of which places some few appear to have become disciples,) they confirmed their minds, and exhorted them to continue in the faith, and bear patiently afflictions, for these must be passed through in the Christian's way to the kingdom of God. And having (Xelprovnσavres) elected or appointed senior disciples, or elders to preside in the new formed societies or churches, they commended them to the Lord, with fasting and prayer. During this Mission the Lord not only accompanied their discourses, reasonings, and instructions, with the energies
+ Supposed to have been changed in compliment to Sergius Paulus, the convert at Cyprus.
of his Holy Spirit on the minds of some of the hearers, but also enabled the Apostles to perform several miracles. Elymas, the sorcerer, was punished with temporary blindness, and the man at Lystra, who had been lame from his infancy, was restored to the perfect use of his limbs.
It does not appear in what language these two Missionaries usually spoke; whether in Greek, or in the dialects peculiar to the several provinces of the empire through which they passed, but there is every reason to believe that they could make themselves understood in any of the languages or dialects wherever they came.
After rehearsing the proceedings of this first Mission, to the assembled church at Antioch, Barnabas and Paul abode a long time, it is supposed about two years, in Syria, defending the proceedings of the late Mission against bigoted Jewish brethren, who taught that the Mosaic rites were essential to salvation. With these people the Missionaries had "no small dissention and disputation." At Phenice and Samaria, however, as they went south to Jerusalem, and declared the conversion of the Gentiles, they "caused great joy to all the brethren."
At Jerusalem the church received them, and heard their report; but still opinions were divided: some Pharisees who believed, insisted that the law of Moses must be observed by the Gentile converts, and there was "much disputing" at their meeting. Finally, the argument suggested by Peter, that since the Almighty put no difference between the Jew and the Gentile, but "purified the hearts" of both by the faith of the Gospel, it was not for them to impose the yoke of a ritual on the necks of the new disciples, which Heaven had not imposed. Barnabas and Paul supported this argument, by declaring the wonders which God had already wrought among the Gentiles, without any Mosaic rites; and James concurred in, and confirmed the same sentiment, by a reference to prophesies concerning the Gentiles. He gave it as his " sentence," or fixed opinion, that the Gentiles who had turned to God, should not be "troubled" with any Mosaic rites, but only be required to
abstain from idolatry and vice. This motion was carried by the Apostles and Elders, with the whole church. A letter was written, couched in the terms employed by James, and sent back to Antioch by Judas and Silas, together with Barnabas and Paul. When the multitude of believers at Antioch heard the epistle from Jerusalem read to them, they rejoiced for the consolation afforded to their minds by it. The deputies from Jerusalem, Judas and Silas, delivered exhortations calculated to confirm the faith of the disciples, and so closed the proceedings which arose out of the Mission undertaken and accomplished by Barnabas and Paul.
From the Sacred Scriptures we may derive general principles, which will apply to all cases; but not particular precepts for every possible case. Nor, unless we be in exactly the same circumstances as the examples recorded in Scripture, would our exact imitation of them be always right. That human means, such as preaching and teaching, should be employed for the diffusion of our holy Religion, is what I would call a general principle, fairly derived from the Bible: but since modern Missionaries have not such an express call by the Holy Spirit as Barnabas and Saul had, since they have not the gift of tongues, and since they have not the power of working miracles, they cannot be exact imitators of those two divinely appointed Missionaries. Although at the present day we hope ministers and missionaries are moved by the Holy Ghost to undertake the work, we cannot attain to certainty on that subject, with respect to any individual. When, indeed, we see the fruits of the Spirit, the work of the Lord, prospering in the hands of his servants, and men converted and purified by the Gospel, then we know that God is working with them, and may fairly infer, that these servants were called to the work, when the churches recommended them to the grace of God and sent them forth.
Barnabas and Paul rehearsed to the church all that God had done with them. In this great work the Lord himself is the prime mover, the principal agent; he is the Head, the