Imágenes de páginas

were the words of our Lord at his last interview with his disciples just before he ascended into Heaven, with the addition to his promise, that it should happen so to them not many days after ; alluding evidently to the wonderful event of the day of Pentecost. But although his engagement was illustriously accomplished on that day, there was no reason for limiting the gift to that particular occasion. On the contrary, several other proper seasons might arise for imparting the same blessing : and whenever this appeared, it was a convincing evidence of the divine sanction, which it had been the blindest incredulity and most obstinate presumption to resist. Such was the reasoning of St. Peter, as we may judge from the verse immediately following: “ Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I, that I could withstand God.” This was indeed an unanswerable argument, capable of bearing down the most inveterate prejudices ; because it spoke to their feelings, and in denying its force they must have abandoned their own cause. The consequence was, what we should naturally expect from men possessing a just degree of candour ; « When they heard these things, they held their peace,” (desisted from all further censure) and glorified God, saying, then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.!?

[ocr errors]

I have but one observation to make upon this passage. The brethren liere spoken of were highly exasperated against Peter, till they had heard his defence. Now when we consider the strong attachment of the human mind to opinions entertained through a whole life, especially such as regard religion, and are therefore held most sacred, we must acknowledge a very considerable share of unsuspecting faith and uprightness of heart in them, to give up all their settled habits of thinking in a moment to the relation given by St. Peter. There were many of their nation, who would not only have stubbornly refused their assent to him, but even to the miracle itself, which had induced him to admit the Gentiles into the church. And it is greatly to be feared, that men of the same description may be found elsewhere. But this is not the whole merit of the Christian brethren; for they not only gave credit to the Apostle, but also glorified God for what he had done. And what was this ? Nothing less, than setting aside their own exclusive claim of right to be reckoned the chosen people of God, which had ever been their pride and their glory. A reluctant assent had perhaps been no great display of candour ; but thus to praise and magnify God, for having communicated to all nations what they had fondly considered peculiar to themselves, argues a very noble effort of Christian charity and extensive benevolence. A

sacrifice of rooted principles to truth is something; but a sacrifice of great and distinguished privileges along with them, a discharge of all the selfish pas. sions, and a cheerful adoption in their stead of universal philanthropy and love, is one of those blessed effects which cannot be accounted for, but through the influence of Christianity on the heart.

I would therefore earnestly recommend to your notice and imitation, the admirable stroke of character here drawn ; for though conveyed in a single line, with the accustomed simplicity of the evangelic writers, it is pregnant with goodness and excellence, and admits a very general application to human life. To give but one instance : do we sincerely rejoice at the prosperity of others, and make it a subject of thanks and praise towards God, as we should our own ? Does the universal good of mankind, more especially that portion of it with which we are more nearly connected, so mix and blend with our own happiness, as to form an essential part thereof; so as to heighten and improve the satisfaction of our enjoyments, and in some measure console us under our cares and dis. appointments ? Are we ready to co-operate with Heaven, when graciously disposed to send down blessings upon our neighbour; as well as to lighten the chastisements and visitations of God by liberal assistance, kind attention, and earnest prayer ? I aced not multiply those heads of self-examination,

[ocr errors]

The Christian principle is sufliciently plain : and you see it nobly exemplified by the Apostles and brethren, in their lively joy that the Gentiles were received into life, and made one fold with them. selves, under one shepherd.

The next event, which the history records, is the preaching of those Christians, who were scattered abroad, upon the persecution that arose about Stephen; among whom were some natives of Cyprus and Cyrene, who spake unto the Grecians at Antioch. These Grecians some will have to be Hellenistic Jews, mentioned before; others say they were Gentiles, Whichever they were, this preaching was successful : “a great number believed and turned unto the Lord." To assist the good work, Barnabas was sent by the church to Antioch ; who having exhorted the converts there to cleave steadfastly to the Lord, went to Tarsus to seek Saul ; and having found and brought him to Antioch, con- ' tinued here with him a whole year, exercising the ministry. And the disciples were in this city first called Christians, probably from the multitude of converts. « In these days come prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch : and there stood up one of them, named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world; which came to pass in the days of Claudius Cæsar." Of what religion these prophets were the historian does not mention ; but that they were

Christians seems very evident, from the following considerations.

1. One remarkable character of the present times is the spirit of prophecy, which is to be poured out upon the sons and daughters of the Jews : and which St. Peter, in the second chapter of the Acts, expressly applies to the Christian church, laying it down as one branch of the miraculous system begun on the day of Pentecost, and without doubt designed to continue while the interests of the Gospel might require. It is part of the striking prediction of the prophet Joel, and was allowed by the ancient Jews to belong to the days of the Messiah. Here then, is a prophecy actually fulfilled in those days ; and by whom are we naturally to suppose it fulfilled, but by the subjects of that prince? Had we not even the great authority of St. Peter to guide us, this application of it would be plain and obvious.

2. In the thirteenth chapter of this book we read of certain prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch ; and among them Barnabas and Saul. Nothing you see, can be more explicit. The church is mentioned as the seat of those prophets, and some of its most illustrious members reckoned among them. Now since the historian gives not the least intimation elsewhere, that he had any other description of persons in view, we are compelled to suppose them Christians. Philip, the evangelist, had four daughters, which did prophecy;

« AnteriorContinuar »