Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

which may easily be admitted, without the slightest danger toreligion ? There seems to be a great mistake, as to the characters of apostles, prophets, and teachers, in those primitive times, as if the gift of the Holy Ghost, and power of working miracles, secured the professor against every kind of sin, and even weakness. Look into the seventh chapter of St. Matthew, v. 23, and you will find our Saviour declaring to those who should prophesy and cast out devils, and do many wonderful works in his name, “ I never knew you, depart from me ye that work 'iniquity.”—These gifts, it seems then, might be found in every wicked life, and much more may consist with the usual infirmities of nature. Indeed, they were so far from regulating the whole moral state of the mind, that we have reason to suppose them occasionally only, granted for particular purposes, and then withdrawn, till some new matter should call for their exertion. No man will deny, that the characters of those two Apostles would have been more perfect, had they exercised the virtues of meekness and forbearance : but as we do not hold them up for being spotless, and without sin, (a character never found except in our divine Master,) I can see no ground for railing against Christianity on account of this contention. On the contrary, an impartial judge would hence draw an argument in its favour ; viz. the great çandour of the historian, in recording a circum

stance to the disadvantage of these distinguished Apostles, which he might have passed over in silence. For how easy was it to have mentioned their going on different services, without stating the cause of their separation ?

But let us examine for å moment the nature and extent of their fault, lest they be accused beyond just measure. The cause of their contention origi. nated from Mark, not the evangelist, but another, who is generally allowed to be the nephew of Barnabas. He had accompanied them in their former mission, but had deserted them in Pamphylia, in a manner very inexcusable in the eyes of St. Paul. When therefore Barnabas, probably from a natural affection for his kinsman, wished to take him with them, Paul actuated by his honest zeal for propagating the faithi, thought it not right to employ a nan upon whose steadiness he could not rely. If we were to decide upon the merits of each conduct, St. Paul's principle appears the more just and pure : yet surely it may be thought a weakness of an amiable kind in Barnabas, to be so ready in pardoning his friend, and hoping better things from him in time to come. So that, although we may lament any occasion of difference between them, as well as their pursuing it with too much heat and anger, it is pleasing to think, that the contest was rather between virtuous affections, carried on one side to excess, than between any mean or selfish

passions on either part. And, therefore, were the Christian religion answerable for the conduct of its professors, (which is by no means true,) we should have but slight cause to be ashamed of the instance before us. Would to God the dissentions of Christians had not, in general, worse motives ; nor were attended with more injurious effects ! For if we look a little more attentively into the transaction, we shall not only find reason to view the contention between these Apostles with indulgence, for the sake of their principles, but likewise be confirmed in our opinion of those principles, from the consequences which naturally followed. We find nothing like a lasting rancour or jealousy. between the parties : on the contrary, Mark, the person rejected by St. Paul, appears to have made amends by his subsequent good conduct, and to have entirely regained his esteem and affection. For it is most probably of him he writes in his second epistle to Timothy, “ Take Mark and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me for the ministry.”—We are not, indeed, informed how this dispute affected him. But there is every reason to suppose that he must have felt very sensibly his being the unfortunate cause of such a difference between these great Apostles, at a time when they were setting out upon their joint ministry. And the natural result of such feeling was, a sincere concern for his former misconduct ; more care, diligence and fidelity, for the time to come. You see too, how wholly intent upon its proper object, the advancement of the faith, was the mind of St. Paul, and how perfectly free from all personal antipathy. The very inan, by whose means he had quarrelled with his venerable fellow labourer, is taken into his confidence, and joined in the sacred work to which he was called.

To these favourable considerations we may add, that the separation of the Apostles appears eventually to have served the Christian faith, and in this view was graciously permitted by Divine Provi. dence. For each of them having thus taken distinct provinces, their doctrine spread with more rapidity and to greater extent, than if their friendship had continued, and they had gone together. “Known unto God are all his works,” and to him alone. He is able to bring good out of evil, and to make the most seemingly untoward events subservient to designs of mercy. Let this reflection, the just mixture of humility and hope, never forsake us through life: and let us endeavour to look upon all its occurrences (however gloomy and dismal some of them may appear), as “ working together for good.” The experience of every one among us, limited as it is, has, I doubt not, in several instances gone to establish the truth here laid down ; and although in others the blessings be not yet visible, it is our duty, and our wisdom, to wait God's own good

[ocr errors]

time ; 6 for the Lord is not slack in his promise."

Barnabas having taken Mark with him, sailed to Cyprus ; and Paul choosing Silas, - went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches." To the latter Apostle the history henceforth is confined: it proceeds to mention his arrival at Derbe, then at Lystra, where meeting a disciple, named Timotheus, whose mother was a Jewess, and his father a Greek, he wished to have him of his company, but first circumcised him.

There is a seeming inconsistency between this part of St. Paul's conduct, and his general doctrines, as well as his particular behaviour on other occasions. He was truly the Apostle to the Gentiles, whom he constantly maintains to have been - made partakers in the Gospel no less than Jews. Whenever an argument or discourse arises on the Mosaic law, he uniformly represents it as utterly insufficient to justification, as passed away and succeeded by another dispensation, which alone is capable of giving life. We have lately seen him actively, contending against the Judaizing Christians at Antioch, and assisting to the decree of council at Jerusalem so favourable to the Gentiles. We learn from himself how he rebuked Peter with severity for temporizing with the Jews, and for declining all intercourse with the Gentiles merely to gratify them. How do all these things consist with his circumcising of Timothy ?

« AnteriorContinuar »