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and pitched his tent; having Beth-el on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord.” (Gen. xii, 5, 7, 8.) And in short,--not to be tedious, it appears, that both Abraham and his posterity, with their families and followers, continued to have an altar of their own wherever they went: and I should presume from Abraham's restraining those about him, his “ young men,” on one occasion, (Ib. xxii. 5,) that the families of the patriarchs and the souls they had gotten, being circumcised as they, were generally allowed to meet and worship on an equal footing the God of their forefathers, as well as to partake of the offering in common, when there was one,without some special reason to the contrary, as it happened on the occasion just alluded to.
Meanwhile, other patriarchal chiefs, as well senior to Abraham as cotemporary with him and his issue, were officiating personally in different parts, for or before their several families and collections, it may be presumed, subsequently to the general dispersion before mentioned: as Melchizedek, the celebrated king of Salem, whom we read of, (Gen. xiv. 18,) for one. But the greater part of Noah's posterity, and those descended by Ham, the father of Canaan, particularly, had, it is to be feared, either lost their religious notions—which they derived from that excellent patriarch entirely, or got them entirely confounded in the mighty revulsion and dispersion aforesaid; few of the tribes that strayed from Babel retaining any considerable part of Noah's tradition concerning God, his creation, mercy, and kind providence,- too many, no part of it whatever: which accounts for the wretched state of the world again only in a very few ages after its purification by the flood; and that of the land of Canaan and its environs more especially, until its regeneration by the Israelites, and the beginning of a new era in the church-to the manner and occasion of which I now request your particular attention.
The occasion of this new era, or as it called New Dispensation in reference to the divine Authority by which it was ordained, is found in the breaking up of the Jewish patriarchate in Egypt upon the death of Joseph, (Exod. i. 8,) A. b. C. 1635: by which means the people that had been in the days of Jacob and Joseph was now in a state of anarchy, or without government,--as it could not amalgamate of course with the posterity of Ham, even if these would have allowed it. Therefore God himself was pleased to be their king, and bring them out of that country, and out of the wretched state into which an evil policy had plunged them. (Ib. 10.) “ For why ? he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham his servant. And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness; and gave them the lands of the heathen: and they took the labours of the people in possession (in order to give his people a fair opportunity,) that they might keep his statutes, and observe his laws:” (Ps. cv. 41, &c. :) which they could not effectually, and that is the worst of it, in a state of bondage. This, I say, was the commencement of a new era in the establishment of the church and of a new form or constitution of the same indeed altogether. For now the head of the family or people is no longer its priest. God, if he be a Father to the nation, cannot be a priest for the same to himself even in the highest order. “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God; as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself, to be made an high priest; but He that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for
ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who in the days of his flesh when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered : AND BEING MADE PERFECT, he became the author of eternal salvation UNTO ALL THEM THAT OBEY HIM; called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.” (Heb. v. I, &c.)
In this new era the visible sovereignty of the priesthood, which was actually at first in the fathers and then typically in Aaron, is at length abolished entirely, together with the visible temple or high church, and the visible sceptre of Judah, that is, a privileged or chosen tribe. Now the Lord hiunself is King again: (Sam. I. xii. 12:) “ The Lord is King: the earth may be glad thereof; yea, the multitude of the isles may be glad thereof:” (Ps. xcvii. 1:) the Lord is king; his Son, our great high Priest for ever: his worship, in spirit and in truth : bis true worshippers, those who worship him accordingly in spirit and in truth: “ for the Father seeketh such to worship him :" (John iv. 23 :) wherever two or three such worshippers are met together, there is Christ in the midst : (Mat. xviii. 20 :) and while their meeting together makes the place a synagogue, his presence makes it a part of the church.
I cannot tell how many synagogues there were at Antioch, in which Jews, Christians and infidels used to meet indifferently about the times of the apostles : but they say, there were as many as four hundred and eighty in Jerusalem, partly for Jews and partly for strangers, beside the temple, and as many out of Jerusalem as they could get a congregation of ten for: which was handsome, and in the true spirit of the commandment upon the commandments, “ Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." (Deut. vi. 7.) One synagogue we know, they had at Antioch from the mention that is made of it in my text, with more probably than a regular congregation of ten times ten hundred; also, that Paul and Barnabas were happy enough to make a good use of the same for once at least.
The appearance of two such visitors as Paul and Barnabas in the synagogue might be enough to make a new thing of it any where, as the appearance of our Lord in the temple had made a new thing even of that; both, that is the temple and synagogue, descending silently and imperceptibly one while, another while with more eclat through all the preceding generations; as you have heard. And whereas those who feared God in the said synagogue of Antioch, including some of the men of Israel, (Acts xiii. 16,) desired that these words might be preached to them again the next sabbath day, it may be proper to inform you, that they were preached accordingly, to a more numerous audience, and consequently, it may be presumed with new animation, to the great annoyance of the dissatisfied Jews. For “the next sabbath-day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God." (Ib. 44.)
So far the citizens and residents appear to have been unanimous, that is in coming together. And so far as that even two contending armies may be agreed, “ But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.” (lb. 45.) Whereupon Paul and Barnabas, having paid a proper tribute of respect to their countrymen in preaching the word of God first to them, or in their synagogue, did not think themselves bound to continue any longer their good offices among them. If these two honest Israelites had fairly set up for the Kingdom of God in Christ, and others as imprudently set their faces against it, they were not to give in therefore, but being encouraged by God with so good an attendance of the Gentiles, they “waxed bold, and said, It was necessary, that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the gentiles.-- -- And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region:" (Ib. 46, 49:) and not, as it seems, without some good effect. (Ib. 48.)
A preference like this was enough to verify the prediction of Moses respecting his countrymen in which God tells them, “I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people;” (Rom. x. 19;) and soon brought matters to an issue. For the Jews now taking the apostles at their word, would omit nothing after such an insult, as they considered it, to ruin their credit at Antioch, and drive them on farther among the gentiles. And while that infatuated race was thus fulfilling the intentions of divine Providence, God was also pleased to punish them with success.
“ And he gave them their heart's desire: and sent leanness withal into their soul.” By his permission “ the Jews now 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.” (Acts xiii. 50.)
So far these Jews had done their parts for the adversary of the Kingdom, and disabled themselves in a manner from doing more. They had left the apostles, after receiving an excellent sermon from them one sabbath-day, in a very bad mood; they had taken umbrage at their popularity with the gentiles the next; and not only so, but spoken very unhandsomely of them - contradicting their doctrine, and blaspheming its heavenly Author. Both the apostles and their emulators had been alternating opposition, ostensibly with each other, but in fact against their respective principals; the apostles against Belial, the Jews against Christ. But as the adverse Jews continued to speak against the apostles; and not only so, but had actually beaten, or ejected them, out of the synagogue, the apostles at length