Page images
PDF
EPUB

shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.” And so he writes to Timothy, (i. 1. 3,) “I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine; neither give heed to fables.”

Such was the form which the church assumed, as it prevailed and grew. In this form we find it throughout its history, as superintended by bishops, and instructed by presbyters or elders, with deacons to assist them.

How wonderful the change ! 6. The world had not known God.”. The few who sought after him “if haply they might find him," had no certain clue, still less any authorised guide. Now provision is made, that none should be “strangers to the covenant of promise, without hope, and without God in the world."* A light was raised, and conspicuously set up, and transmitted from hand to hand, and from age to age, which “should light every man that cometh into the world. The young, on first entering it, might be dedicated to

1 Timothy iii. 1. Again, in Acts xx., those elders summoned to Miletus are termed indifferently πρεσβυτεροι or επισκοτποι. . Compare v. 17 and 28. This confusion would have been inconvenient, when one of the elders was made superintendent, and had pre-eminence. Then he became the overseer ; that is, the bishop. Accordingly, the history of every church contains a catalogue of its bishops. In this Antioch, for example, Evodius is reckoned first, Ignatius second. 2 1 Cor. i. 21.

3 Ch. xvii. 27. Eph. ii. 12.

4

young, infor

their Creator. Christ had ordered that they should be brought unto him. Every age, every condition of life might“ walk with God;" " set him always before them.” The rich might become rich indeed; no longer “having their portion in this world” alone. And with the rich " the poor met together;" equal in the sight of “the Saviour of all men. It was the character of his religion, that “the poor had the gospel preached unto them." An order of persons was set apart who should instruct the inform the ignorant, warn the thoughtless, reclaim the wandering, comfort the distressed, edify the whole, dispensing to each his portion in due season. Thus a people might be trained on earth, who should hereafter be raised to an everlasting kingdom in heaven. And the motto of the church, of the whole church, and of every division of it, was this : “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” He will have " all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” " Let him that is athirst,

And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely."

come.

[ocr errors]

5 2 Cor. v. 19. 1 Tim. ii. 3. Rev. xxii. 17.

LECTURE XLVII.

THE RETURN OF PAUL AND BARNABAS TO AN

TIOCH, AFTER VISITING THE CHURCHES.-A. D: 46.

Acts xiv. 24-28.

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 grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.

Setting out on their mission more than a year before from this place, they had been solemnly recommended to the grace of God. The prophets and teachers who were of the church of Antioch, after fasting and prayer, had “laid their hands upon them and sent them away.” 2 But the grace of God had been granted to their prayer, and had blessed their journey to an extent to which their hopes could scarcely have been raised. They could hardly have expected that in Cyprus, where their work began, the first fruits of their ministry should be the Roman governor, the chief person of the

? Both towns of Pamphylia: Attalia, a sea port, now called Sattalia. Hence back to the Syrian Antioch.

? Chapter xiii. 3.

island. They could hardly have expected that in Pisidia, when the name of Jesus was proclaimed to a mixed assembly of Jews and Gentiles, the Gentiles should be the first to entreat that they might hear more of the word of this salvation : that they especially should " be glad, and glorify the word of the Lord.” They had set out, trusting in God, and not counting their lives dear unto themselves. But now their trust had become confidence, and their hope experience. He had not only supported them when opposed by Elymas, or delivered them from death at Lystra ; but he had brought strength out of their weakness, and allowed them to be the first who should illustrate his parable, (Mark iv. 26,) “So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise, night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.”

These were the glad tidings with which they now returned : and we may well conceive the interest with which their report would be listened to by the Christians at Antioch.

27. 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. 28. And there they abode long time with the disciples.

They reported nothing of themselves, except as instruments in God's hands : it is not what they had done, how successful they had been, but what God had done with them : 4 how he had opened a door of faith, to those against whom before the door was shut: he had held up a light to the Gentiles, and had opened their eyes to see it, and their hearts to be guided by it into the way everlasting.”

3 Chap. xii. 48.

It was indeed a mystery, “that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel : a mystery which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it was now revealed unto the holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” But though their eyes had been holden, that they should not perceive this; it was the will of God from the beginning, “ according to his good pleasure which he had purposed in himself,” 6 " that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ :” “according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 7 He had clearly foretold this : saying, by the mouth of Isaiah, (lxvi. 18-21,) “It shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues, and they shall come and see my glory. And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations ;” those that escape “ from the untoward generation”: to which they belong, shall be my messengers to all quarters of the earth; "to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow”—(to Africa and Lydia) — to

4 Met' à utwv, as also Ch. xv. 4.

Eph. iii. 5, 6. See also Col. i. 26. 6 Eph. i. 9, 10. 7 Eph. iii. 11.

8 See ch. ii. 40.

5

« PreviousContinue »