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Remarks —The first Christian Congregation followed as the result of St. Peter's sermon. It was composed wholly of converts from the Jeivish Church, and may be called the Mother-Congretion of Christendom.
Comments.—Verse 37. Now when they had heard the Sermon of St. Peter, they were pricked in their hearts, or pierctd through by the truth of his discourse, which he proved by the sayings of their own Prophets, and by facts which they could not gainsay. Instead of becoming angry, they were penitent and turned to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, whom they acknowledged as Men and brethren, that is, as wise and charitable advisers. " What shall we dot" was the great question with them. They felt that the awful crime of slaying Jesus Christ would draw after it a very heavy punishment. How were they to escape the penalty?
Verse 38. Peter prescribes the duties for them to perform: 1) Repent: Realize your sin: deplore it heartily; confess it; pray for mer: y; And 2) be baptized . . . in the name of Jesus Christ: Acknowledge the Gospel of Christ, by becoming His disciples in that you submit to the rite of Baptism. Notice, too, that St. Peter requires this of all— every one of you.
Then he assures them, two results will follow: 1) The remission of sins; And 2) the gift of the Holy Ghost: the implanting of God's life in their souls.
Verse 39. For the promise of Joel, the prophet, whose words he had been quoting, is to you, the Jews, and to your children, or offspring; and to all that are afar off—the Geutiles; even as many as the Lord our God shall call, by the preaching of the Gospel in the ourse of time.
Verse 40. And with many other words, which are not recorded here, he continued to testify, or prove the truth of his words, and to exhort, or beseech them, saying: Save yourselves from this untoward (opposing) generation — the Jewish nation, which was soon to be destroyed.
Verse 41. Then they that gladly received his word, or that portion of his hearers which were, ready and willing to obey his counsels, at once became converts to Christ. On the same day,
in different parts of the City of Jerusalem, at the hands of the several Apostles, about three thousand souls left the Jewish Church and became Curistians.
Verse 42. And they continued in their new faith steadfastly, or firmly. They exhibited their zeal in four different ways: 1) In living the doctrines of the Apostles; 2) In remaining in the fellowship of charity and love towards each other; 3) In the breaking of bread, or celebrating the Lord's Supper; and 4) In prayers, or observing all their devotional duties in private and in public.
Such was the life and spirit of the first congregation of Christ. O, that such marks were to be noted in all the members of everyUhurch of Christ!
And the Lord added to the church daily such as sliould be saved from their sins, by repentance and faith, even as He does to-day. Such as join the Church, and do not realize that they are in a saving relation to God, are not properly added of God to His people.
We have learned 1) When and where the first Christian Congregation was founded; 2) how the first harvest of souls was gathered into the kingdom of Christ; and, 3) what spirit pervaded the Mother-Church. The Christian Church is a Divine kingdom. We show our faith by submitting to the Gospel in Baptism. By virtue of the Grace vouchsafed to us, we are enabled to lead penitent lives. Thus holiness and salvation result.
Verse 43. And fear came upon vvery soul that tarried in Jerusalem, because of such events which were occurring. The many wonders and signs which were done by the Apostles, besides, helped to bring borne to all the Jews that this work was of God.
Verse 44. And all that believed, or had become Christians, were together, that is, were united in spirit and mind. It is not likely that more than three thousand souls were in one place constantly. And had all things common. Just as the Jews, during their Festivalseasons, entertained each other mutually, so the first Christian community made one family of themselves, and shared beds, homes and tables, while they tarried there.
Verse 45. Some of the wealthier ones even sold their possessions and goods, in order to aid such as were in want. They parted, or divided to all, as every man had need
Verse 46. They continuing daily with one accord, or one mind, in the temple, at the regular hours of prayer, and took their meals in companies, between the hours of worship, under each others' roofs. And thus they worshiped, ate and lodged, experiencing great gladness and unanimity.
Verse 47. Praising God for the faith He had wrought in their souls, and having favour with all the people, on account of their simple, pure and Christlike lives.
The Ministry of the Hymns.
BY MltS. S. K. IiRANDEGER.
From a beautiful volume, published by the American Tract Society, entitled "Story of the Hymns," we make the following extract:
"The hymns of Luther," says S. T. Coleridge, "did as much for the Reformation as did hi* translation of the Bible. They were indeed the battle-cry and trumpet-call of the Reformation; the children hummed them in the cottage, the martyrs sung them on the scbffold."
After his death, when his friend Mel-, ancthon heard a little maid singing on the streets of Weimar Luther's grand hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is our God," he said, "Sing on, my maid, for you little know whom you comfort."
Such a beautiful incident illustrative of this thought was recently given by Rev. Mr. Boole, of Asbury Park, from his own pulpit, that we venture to reproduce it for the benefit of others.
On board the ill-fated steamer "Seawanhaka" was one of the Fisk University singers. Before leaving the burning steamer and committing himself to the merciless waves, he carefully fastend upon himself and wife life-preservers. Some one cruelly dragged away that of the wife, leaving her without hope, except as she could cling to her husband. This she did, placing her hands firmly
on his shoulders and resting there, until her strength becoming exhausted, she said, "I can hold on no longer!" ' Try a little longer," was the response of the wearied and agonized husband, "let us sing, Rock of Ages.'" And as the sweet strains floated over those troubled waters reaching the ears of the sinking and dying, little did they know, those sweet singers of Israel, whom they comforted.
But lo! as they sang, one after another of the exhausted ones were seen raising their heads above the overwhelming waves, joining with a last effort in this Bweet, dying, pleading prayer,
"Rock of Ages, cleft for me
With the song seemed to come strength; another and yet another was encouraged to renewed effort.
Soon in the distance a boat was seen approaching! Could they hold out a little longer? Singing still, they tried, and soon, with superhuman strength, laid hold of the lite-boat, upon which they were borne in safety to land.
This is no fiction; it was related by the singer himself, who said he " believed Toplady's sweet ' Rock of Ages' saved many another beside himself and wife."
And this was only salvation from temporal death! But methinks, from the bright world yonder the good Toplady must be rejoicing that God ever taught him to write that hymn, which has helped save so many from eternal death as, catching its spirit, they have learned to cast themselves alone for help on that dear "Rock of Ages"—cleft, Binner, for them, for you and for me, and which ever stands rent asunder that it may shelter those who utter the cry
"Let me hide thyself in thee."
Old gentleman (military man) conversing with smart-looking Irishman; "Wounded in the Crimea, were you? Badly?" Irishman: "The bullet hit me in the chist, here, surr, an' came out at me back!' Old gentleman: "Come, c >me, Pat, that won't do! Why, it would have gone right through your heart, man!" Irishman: "Och, faith me heart was in me mouth at the toime, surr!"
JUNE 26. LESSON XXVI. 1881.
Second Sunday after Trinity. Acts xi. 19-26.
The Subject.—THE CHURCH IN ANTIOCH.—(THE FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH IN
KEY-NOTE.—"I Say Unto You, That
LIKEWISE JOY SHALL BE IN HEAVEN OVERONE SINNER THAT REPENTETH, MORE THAN OVER NINETY AND NINE JUST PERSONS, WHICH NEED NO REPENTANCE."—Luke XV. 7.
19.1 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word unto the Jews only.
20. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.
21. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.
22.1 Then tidings of these thiDgs came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as tar as Antioch.
23. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of Ood, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.
24. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith : and much people was added unto the Lord.
25. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:
2(S. And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
Of what Church did our last lesson treat? 1 Of what Church does this lesson treat? Of what faith had the members of the Church iu! Jerusalem been before their conversion? Of what people were the members of the congregation iu Antioch? verses 1 and 20. In what two cities, then, were the Mother-congregations for I the Jewish and Gentile world established?
Vkkse 19. Who were scattered abroad? Why? Who was Stephen T chap. vi. 1-6. What was his end? chap. vii. 68-60. What place does St. Stephen hold among the Christian maityrs? j To what several places did the persecuted Christians flee? W hat did these fugitives continue doing, wherever they came to? What good resulted from the persecution, then? To whom only did they preach the Gospel? Why?
20. From what countries were some of those at Antioch? To whom did these preach? Were the Grecians Jens or Gentiles T Is this the first notice we have of Gentiles being ad- i mitted into the Christian Church? Whom had I
St. Peter admitted before? chap. x. Did the Ch ristians at Antioch likely, follow his example
21. What is meant by the hand of the Lordf Did this show that the Lord approved of extending the Gospel to the Heathens?
22. What Church heard of the events at Antioch? Whom did the Apostles then send thither? Who was linrnaias f chap. iv. 36.
23. How was he affected? What did he do for them?
24. What was the character of Barnabas?
25. For whom did Barnabas send' Who was Saul T chap. ix.
26. How long did both labor here? What name originated here? Did the name ChrisTian come from the followers of Christ them selves? Did the Jews confer it on them? Who must then have given them the name? For what two facts did the Church in Antioch become noted in all time?
Why art thou called a Christian t—Heidelberg Catechism, Question xxxii.
1. Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love 1
2. Before our Father's throne
We pour our ardent prayers i
3. We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
4. When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
5. This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way;
G. From sorrow, toil, and pain,
Remarks.—Antioch was the capital of Syria, a country lying adjacent to India on the North. The city lay about 250 miles off Jerusalem. Jerusalem and Antioch are remarkable for being the two cities in which the two Mother Congregations were founded in the Apostolic age. In the former place the first Christian Congregation for the Jews was founded; whilst in the latter the first Christian Congregation for the Gentiles was established. How the door was opened for the Gospel into the Heathen world, we may now see, by studying the origin of this first Missionary Church.
Comments.—Verse 19. Now they, who had been converted to Christianity in the City of Jerusalem, were scattered abroad, and were obliged to flee in every direction, on account of the great and cruel persendion, or outbreak of hatred against the Christians on the part of the Jews. The zeal of Stephen was the immediate occasion of this rage. Who he was, we learn in Chaps, vi. vii. viii.
In their flight they sought out such places outside of Judea as had become the dwelling-places of their former acquaintances and Jewish brethren, whom they supposed to be less enraged against them than those residing in Jerusalem. Phaznice lay along the Mediterranean Sea, and Cyprus was an Inland in the Sia; whilst Antioch lay farther north. But wherever these flying Christians tarried, they continued preaching the Gospel. They fled for their lives, but did not deny their faith. In this way the persecution did great good, since the gospel sparks were scattered about. God knows how to overrule the wralh of man and Satan.
southern coast of the sea. Being natives of these places, and having been converted to the Gospel, these commenced to labor with the Grecians, who were Gentiles. Thus was founded in Antioch the first Christian Church, into which converted heathens were admitted. On this account the Church in Antioch became especially noted.
Verse 21.—By the hand of the Lord is intended the power of His Spirit. The phrases, finger of God and arm of God (Luke xi. 20; Job xl. 9), mean the same thing. God approved of the act of extending the Gospel into heathen lands, in a marked manner. Many Gentiles believed in Jesus as the Christ, and joined His Church now founded in this city. The door was now opened, and souls from afar pressed into His Kingdom.
Verse 22.—The tidings, or news, that a new congregation had been established in Antioch, and of Gentiles as well as of Jews, reached the ear of the Mother Church in Jerusalem. The Apostles sent Barnabas (chap. iv. 36), a zealous minister, thither, with proper instructions, no doubt, how to establish and organize all things on a sure foundation. Such counsel was needed, we may easily believe.
Verse 23. Being himself a Grecian Jew. and native of Cyprus (chap, iv, 36-7) he exhorted the Church in their familiar tongue, advising and encouraging all to remain faithful and steadfast in their new religion.
Verse 24. His character is given us in these few words. With such a preacher, and around such a flock, we need not wonder at the rapid growth of this Church.
Verse 25.—The increase of the
But these Christians had not yet membership rendered more ministerial
learned that the Gospel of Christ was intended for all mankind, and so they confined their intercourse and preaching to the Jews only. It was here, however, in Antioch, and very soon after, that they learned, how Peter had baptized Cornelius, the first Gentile soul (chap, x.). and thus taught them that Christianity was meant for the whole world, f >r Jews and Gentiles.
help necessary. Barnabas now thought of his former countryman, and now converted Saul. He had been a violent persecutor of the Christians, but having himself become a believer in Christ, after a most wonderful manner (chap, ix.), he was obliged to hide among his friends at his native place, Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia, in Asia Minor. Being learned in the Greek and Latin
Verse 20.—And some of them, who j tongues, he was a suitable man for this
bad arrived at Antioch, were men of i Cyprus and Cyrene—e. country on the
labored for the extension of the Gospel in Autioch. And from this city, afterwards, Paul undertook his great missionary tours into other countries. Antioch became the great head-quarters of the Gentile Mission.
And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. This is an important record. It tells us of the time and place in which the name ChrisTian first originated. Btfore this name became known, the followers of Christ were called by different names. They usually called themselves "Disciples," •' Be'ievtrs," " Saints," " Brethren." The Jews called them "Galileans," "Nazarenes." Now, however, the unconverted Gentiles in Antioch conferred the name Christians upon them, since they followed Christ as Leader. It was given in mockery, and as a witty , nick-name, by the heathen Antiocheans. It was at once adopted universally, and became an honorable and immortal name.
For two things, then, the Church in Antioch is noted. 1! Because this was the first Christian congregation into whose bosom Gentile converts were admitted. 2. Because the noble name Christian originated in this city and was first applied to the followers of our Lord.
The Heidelberg Catechism tells us something about this name, in the xxxii. Question.
"Why art thou called a Christian? Because I am a member of Christ by faith, and thus am a partaker of His anointing, that so I may confess His name, and present myself a living sacrifice of thanksgiving to Him; and also that with 'a free and good conscience I may fight against Sin and Satan in this life, and afterwards reign with Him < ternally over all creatures."
A Happy Illustration.
Ur. Beadle on one occasion made an address at the close of the Commencement dinner of Trinity College. He was known to but few of the alumni present. There was no expectation aroused before his speech. He had been passing some months in the West Indies for his health; and, during that time, had been quite ill. Referring to
recent life in the tropics, he said: "No natural object in that region had more attraction to me than the stately palmtree, with its graceful form and its refreshing shade. And the manner of its growth is recalled to me as I see these successive college classes, in their representatives here to-day. Out of the heart of the palm-tree there comes a cluster of young leaves — like the graduating class of to-day — stai ding together for a time above all about them, and then separating, without losing all connection with the parent stock, to spread into an encircling frieze which is to be covered in turn by the next unfolding cluster from above, and so the growth of the tree, like that of the college, is marked by the successive courses of unfolded leaves, the younger ones seeming to stretch themselves over the others to shield them from the sun and storm, lest they should wither and fall too soon. Oh, how grateful was the shade of the palmtree to one who was weary in that dry and thirsty land! But dearer far to me, my friends, than all else which I came to enjoy in the tropics, was the shelter of a tree which I there found planted by the rivers cf living water, which had been started into its beautiful growth under the shadow <f Trinity College walls." By this time the college alumni were aroused, and they listened with bated breath to the musical flow of words that followed. "It was while I lay on a bed of sickness, far from home and frier ds, seemingly called to die uncared for and alone, that there came to my bedside one of God's dear children — a Brother in Christ—to look with sympathy into my eyes, to speak words of comfort to my heavy ears, to fan my fevered brow, and to miogle his thoughts with mine, until, as we held sweet converse together in Christ Jesus, I came to love him as if we had been born of the same mother, and nourished at the same breast. His fellowship and his prayers gave me new comfort and new life; and now, as I stand here before the alumni of his Alma Mater, I say with all my heart, God bless John Du Bois, of the class of 1854." The effect of this climax was irresistible. The classmates of Du Bois led in demonstrative applause, as the other classes joined in with cheers.