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shut against them, but they closed the door of their own hearts. God did not set up a light for the Gentiles, and strike the Jews with blindness. Their own evil passions, their envy, their prejudice, their national pride, kept their hearts closed, and acted as a veil before their minds, that seeing they should not see, and hearing they should not understand.
Meanwhile, the whole is according to divine appointment. It is God's appointment, that such a state of mind as was shown by the Jews of Antioch, should be hardened into unbelief. And it is equally his appointment, that the sheep who hear the voice of the true shepherd, and follow him, are ordained to eternal life: and "they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of his hand."4
We see, in what follows, the temper of that party which had counted themselves unworthy of eternal life.
50. But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.
51. But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came into Iconium.
52. And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.
Here was a fulfilment of our Lord's words: (Luke xii. 51) "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division." As at Iconium, afterwards, "the whole
3 See 1 Peter ii. 8.
4 John x. 27.
city was divided."5 On the one side, were those who published the word of the Lord, and those who with joy received it. On the other hand were those who opposed the word, "contradicting and blaspheming." And these made a party to their support; stirred up men of influence and women of respectable condition, and persuaded them that the preachers of these new truths were dangerous persons, innovators, disturbers of the peace of families, who could not be too soon forced to leave the place where they were causing so much disquiet.
The apostles obeyed their Lord's injunction. Being "persecuted in one city," they "fled into another." 996 But first they protested against those who raised the persecution, and expelled them out of their coasts. They shook off the dust of their feet against them: as much as to say, that they considered them as heathens, though calling themselves Jews, and the land on which they trode as polluted ground.
Meanwhile the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost. How different a state of mind from that of their adversaries. These were full of envy, of hatred, of violence. The others were rejoicing that the word of the Lord was published everywhere, and though rejected by many, was embraced by many. And the comfort which they possessed within had more power to cheer than outward hindrances to disturb. Like the
Ch. xiv. 4.
"Matt. x. 23.
Thessalonians afterwards, they had "received the word in much affliction."7 But this affliction was accompanied "with joy of the Holy Ghost." And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is a balm for all wounds. There is that peace which worldly circumstances may increase, but cannot give may assail, but cannot take away.
PAUL AND BARNABAS AT ICONIUM.
ACTS xiv. 1—7.
.-A. D. 46.
1. And it came to pass in Iconium,' that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude, both of the Jews and also of the Greeks, believed.
Here we find classed together, and assembled together, and addressed together, and converted together, both Jews and Gentiles.
It is difficult to bring ourselves to understand how new and strange this was. St. Paul often alludes to it in his epistles. As writing to the Ephesians, (ii. 11-17,)" Remember that ye being
7 1 Thess. i. 6.
'Iconium was a city of Lycaonia, which was a province of
in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made with hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." Such, for the most part, we must believe, was the character of these Greeks at Iconium. And to them, as to the Ephesians, it might be said, "Now in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both (Jews and Gentiles) one, and hath broken. down the middle wall of partition between us: and came and preached peace to you which were far off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father."
Such was the tenor of the message brought by the apostles. It approved itself to the conscience of these Gentiles. The claim of God to their allegiance; that they could not deny: the Creator has a right over his creatures. The excellence of his law; this their reason must acknowledge to be "holy, just, and good." The mercy of that message by which he now appealed to them; as a Father who would be reconciled to his children, whether "nigh" by profession, or "far off" in total ignorance of his name; and, above all, "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ," who, while they were yet sinners, gave himself for them, that he
might bring them to God;-these were such words as Barnabas and Paul so spake that a multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. "The Lord opened their hearts," and "his word did not return unto him void."
Meanwhile the adversary was not idle. had a people in Iconium, so also had Satan. And these must be roused to oppose the progress of the gospel.
2. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.
So just was the Lord's condemnation of the spirit too common amongst the Jews. "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in." Far from delighting at the prospect, that now both Jews and Gentiles "had access by one Spirit unto the Father;" they raised suspicions and jealousies, and endeavoured to turn aside the people from the faith. And there is much, too much, in the natural man which would favour their bad object. They would represent the piety and holiness required by the gospel, as a yoke heavier than could be borne. As the apostles would urge, "We seek not yours, but you;" the enemy would insinuate that they had private ends to serve; and sought not their souls but their possessions. They would allege the example of Jerusalem, in rejecting, nay, crucifying
2 Matt. xxiii. 13.
3 2 Cor. xii. 14.