ePub 版

were honoured with equal privileges, and placed on a level with themselves ? Must their happiness be necessarily diminished, if others possess an equal portion of good ? Ought they not rather to rejoice that the divine bounty, which was once confined to a single people, is now become so much more extensive, that provision is made for promoting the virtue and piety of thousands, who seemed to be before neglected, and who will, by these means, be saved from destruction ? But they are actuated by the spirit of envy, and that evil passion converts all these causes for joy into so many sources of pain. See by what wicked passions men may be governed, and to what wicked actions they may be instigated, under the idea of a zeal for religion-even to hate, to assault, and stone innocent and virtuous characters. Let Christians take care how they foster the delusive idea that they are the peculiar favourites of Heaven; that its regards are limited to them, and that those who think differently from them, are necessarily its enemies, the objects of its aversion and hatred. It is an idea which inevitably leads to pride and envy, to hatred and cruelty. Let all men beware how they shut their eyes against the light, and refuse to listen to what may be advanced against that which they deem established truth; for under the idea of preserving the truth, they may be cherishing the most fatal errors.

2. While we admire the perseverance and fortitude of these first preachers, in publishing the gospel in the midst of much opposition and danger, let us also take encouragement from their success. Wherever they went, they gained proselytes, notwithstanding the opposition which they encountered, and those proselytes procured more, until, in the course of time, the whole country was converted to Christianity. Thus, agreeably to the prediction of their Master, the grain of mustard-seed became a great tree, and a little leaven leavened the whole mass. Let not the friends of truth, then, who are engaged in like arduous struggles, be discouraged in their exertions. If they find many, or even the majority, blind, obstinate, and violent, yet, in every place, there are a few of a different description, whose minds are open to conviction, who will receive the truth with joy, as soon as it is proposed, and who will communicate the valuable prize to others. Let them renew their labours, therefore, in every place, and persevere in their endeavours to gain an audience of the candid and well-disposed, not doubting the force of truth or the favour of Providence, while they are engaged in so benevolent a work.


Cure of the cripple at Lystra. Paul is stoned by the people. He

returns with Barnabas to Antioch, after visiting several cities of Asia.

[ocr errors]

8. AND there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, unable to use them, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked.

9. The same heard Paul speak, 66 was hearing Paul speak,who, steadfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to he healed,

10. Said, with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet; and he leaped and walked.

“Perceiving that he had faith to be healed." These words plainly imply that if he had not had faith, the favour of being healed might not have been granted to him, which corresponds very well with the language of Christ, who often said to the person upon whom he wrought a miraculous cure, Thy faith hath saved thee. Agreeably to this idea, we are likewise told, that in some places Christ did not many mighty works, because the people believed not. Miraculous cures might sometimes be performed for all alike; but in general they were confined to those who believed in the divine mission of Christ and his apostles; God not choosing to honour unbelievers with a display of his power. The miracle on this cripple seems to have been performed while Paul was speaking to the multitude, and would be the more striking for Its being sudden and unexpected.

11. And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying, in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.

12. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter ; and Paul, Mercurius, « Mercury," because he was the chief speaker.

The miracle which had been just wrought, evidently exceeded the power of man to produce, and must have some supernatural origin. The Lycaonians, therefore, could think of no better method of accounting for it than 'by supposing, what was indeed no uncommon thing according to their mythology, that two of


their gods had assumed a human shape, and were come down amongst them. As Paul was the chief speaker, and Mercury was the messenger of the gods and the patron of eloquence, they supposed that the apostle was this deity, and that Barnabas, who said but little, represented Jupiter, the chief of the heathen gods, whose companion and interpreter, Mercury frequently was.

13. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, or, " the guardian god of their city,* brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people :

That this was the usual method of paying honour to their gods, is well known to those who are at all acquainted with the history of the heathen world. Nothing, therefore, could afford a stronger proof of the faith of this people in the divinity of Paul and Barnabas, than their readiness to offer them the same homage as they paid to those whom they esteemed gods. The gates here mentioned, were not the gates of the city, but of the building where these preachers resided; at this place, it seems, the people assembled to offer sacrifice,

14. Which, when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran outt among the people, crying out,

15. And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things ? We also are men of like passions with you, We are men alike mortal with yourselves,I and preach unto you, that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein : '

16. Who, in times past, suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, i. e. sent no prophet amongst them, as he had done among the Jews.

17. Nevertheless, he left not himself without witness, in that he did good from heaven, and gave yous rain and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness, “ with food and good cheer.· 18. And with these words scarce restrained they the people that they had not done sacrifice unto them.

“We are men alike mortal with yourselves.” This undoubtedly is the apostle's meaning, as is evident from the connexion, and not, as we render the phrase, “ of like passions ;" for he could never intend to assert that himself and Barnabas were governed by

# Wakefield's Translation and Silva Crit. Pt. I. p. 88. + Griesbach. Pearce. Ø Griesbach.

the same vicious passions with idolatrous Gentiles. The same thing is likewise evident from the original, which may be literally rendered, “ of like sufferings,” referring, principally, to the sufferings of death. To those the apostle and his companion were alike subject with other men, and therefore, had no pretensions to that immortality which was the distinguishing characteristic of divinity.

The heathen gods are called vanities in the Old Testament, (1 Kings xvi. 13,) and thence by the apostles, because they were the vain inventions of men : they were gods which had no real existence.

In this passage, the apostle has given us an excellent specimen of the arguments from the light of nature, for the existence of a Deity. He has likewise shown, what indeed we might have known without being expressly informed of it, that it was one great object of his preaching, to turn men from idolatry to the worship of one God.

19. And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded, “gained over," the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.

20. But as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city; and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

The words of the historian, who says that they supposed him to be dead, seem to imply that he was not really so; and yet, as he had been stoned, and dragged through the streets out of the town, it is highly probable that he must be dead, the more especially as it is not likely that his enemies would leave him before they had satisfactory evidence that they had accomplished their purpose. While in this state, and surrounded by the disciples, who were viewing his corpse with deep concern, he rose to life again by the power of Christ. That there was some miracle in the case, is evident from his being able to walk immediately into the city, and to leave it the next day, when, according to the usual course of things, he must have been more disqualified for moving than at first. Alluding to this fact, he says, in the second epistle to the Corinthians, xi. 25, “Once was I stoned.”

21. And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, “made a great many disciples,»* they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and to Antioch,

22. Confirming the minds of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that, s seeing that," we must, through much tribulation, enter into the kingdom of God.

* Wakefield and Worsley.

They showed them that persecution was no more than what might be expected from the purity of the Christian institution, and the predictions of its author. They exhorted them, therefore, to continue in the profession of Christianity, notwithstanding these evils.

23. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, in whom they believed.

These elders seem to have been chosen by the apostles, from among the most eminent of the first converts to Christianity in every society, in order to preside over it, and deliver instruction during their absence. This was a necessary and wise regulation in the first ages of the gospel, however it might be afterwards abused. This verse has occasioned violent debates among the advocates for the different forms of church-government; some maintaining that the election was made solely by the apostles, and intended as a model of the election of ministers by ministers in all succeeding generations; while others maintain from the nature of the term made use of in the Greek, that they must have been chosen by the people : but although it should be allowed that the apostles chose these elders or ministers, it will not follow that those who are destitute of the same divine authority ought to be invested with the same privilege.

These elders are said to have been commended to the Lord in whom they believed, that is, as some suppose, to God, who was able to protect them from all danger, but, as others imagine, with more reason, I conceive, to Christ, who is often called the Lord; and the design of Paul and Barnabas seems to have been to ask for these elders those extraordinary powers which were necessary for their preservation in a season of persecution, or for their success in preaching the gospel. This language corresponds with other passages in this book, which represent Christ as the source whence miraculous powers proceeded, after he had ascended up, as well as while he continued in the world, and rendered it proper for the apostles and other teachers, who derived the power of working miracles from Christ, to address him on the subject, but lays no foundation for addressing similar petitions to him at the present day, when those powers have long ceased. It was to this power that Christ seems to have referred, when he said to his disciples, as he was about to leave them, Lo, I am with you always to the end of the age.

24. And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.

25. And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into 'Attalia ;

26. And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the favour of God for the work which they fulfilled.

« 上一頁繼續 »