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and Sidonians had given him some offence, for which he determined to take revenge, and threatened to make war upon them; but as they were a trading people, and not able to subsist without a constant supply of provisions from Judea, they resolved to avoid it if possible; and in order to accommodate, matters, they made interest with the king's chamberlain, who prevailed on Herod to listen to their proposals. To make the transaction as solemn as possible, Herod appointed a day when a grand assembly was held, and being seated in a public theatre, upon a stately throne, clothed in a magnificent robe richly wrought with silver, he made an oration to them, in which he boasted of his clemency and condescension in admitting them to favour, when he could so easily have subdued them by force. But how soon was the scene changed! He was obliged to quit the place in extreme torture, a vast number of worms bred in his bowels, and shortly after he died a miserable object, sunk as much below the common state of human nature, as his flatterers had attempted to raise him above it. But the Gospel flourished and increased, and the number of believers was considerably multiplied. Thus the opposition of its enemies, instead of extirpating Christianity, promoted it.
A learned author is of opinion, that Herod, in assuming the title of King of Judea, was guilty of high treason against the MESSIAH; and this arrogance, joined to his pride and cruelty, rendered him more deserving of the terrible death he suffered. It is also supposed, that his flatterers meant to draw a comparison between him and the GLORY OF THE LORD, which used to appear on the Mercy-seat.
The miserable end of Herod cannot fail of suggesting proper reflections to our minds on the vanity of earthly greatness,
greatness, and the fatal effects of pride and vain-glory, which corrupt the hearts of those who indulge them, and provoke the just anger of GOD.
BARNABAS and Saul having faithfully discharged their trust, by carrying the alms of the disciples at Antioch to those of Jerusalem, returned back to Antioch, taking with them John, whose surname was Mark. This was not Mark the Evangelist, but the nephew of Barnabas, and son of Mary, at whose house the disciples assembled to pray for Peter.
Shortly after their arrival, Barnabas and Saul were, by the immediate direction of the HOLY SPIRIT, Solemnly separated from the rest of the Apostles, for the peculiar purpose of preaching to the Gentiles; and departed from Antioch by the direction, and under the influence of the HOLY SPIRIT. They first went to Seleucia, a considerable port in the Mediterranean sea. Next they sailed to the island of Cyprus, and having made a progress through it, came to Paphos, which lay on the who western coast. At this place they met with a Jew, was a magician and false prophet. His name was Barjonas, or, when translated into the Greek language, ElyThis person was with Sergius Paulus the Roman
Proconsul, a steady and prudent man, very willing to hear the truth, and very capable of judging of its evidence. Sergius Paulus having heard some reports concerning Barnabas and Saul, sent for them, and desired to be acquainted with their doctrine; but Elymas the sorcerer, scnsible that he should be no more regarded if their instructions were attended to, by a variety of insinuations endeavoured to prevent the Proconsul's receiving the faith. Then Saul, who from this time is called Paul, being filled with the powerful impulse of the HOLY SPIRIT, fixed his eyes on him, and said, "O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season."
Elymas was instantly struck with blindness, so that he was obliged to seek for somebody to lead him by the hand to find the door. When the Proconsul beheld this signal judgment, he regarded it as sufficient evidence of the truth of the Gospel, and was struck with admiration at the wonderful grace of God.
When Paul and Barnabas departed from Paphos they went to Perga in Pamphylia, and John, surnamed Mark, who had hitherto accempanied them, withdrew himself from them, and went back to Jerusalem; but the two Apostles steadily pursued their course till they arrived at Antioch in Pisidia, and entering into the Jewish synagogue on the sabbath, they sat down among those who worshipped there. After a portion of the Law and the Prophets had been read according to custom, the rulers of the synagogue, knowing the characters of Paul and Barnabas, and being desirous of hearing from their own mouths the doctrine they taught, sent one of their inferior
inferior officers to them, saying, "Men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation which may conduce to the edification of the assembly, declare it freely." Then Paul stood up, and waving his hand to render the audience more attentive, he began a discourse, in which he briefly recounted the deliverance of Israel from Egypt their settlement in Canaan—the ungrateful returns which they made to Divine goodness, when they rejected the LORD from being King over them—the character of David, and the promise made to him, that from him should proceed the MESSIAH. The apostle then asserted, that GoD, in remembrance of this promise, had raised up unto Israel JESUS to be a SAVIOUR, whose coming John the Baptist had foretold; yet, notwithstanding the undoubted proofs that were given of his being the MESSIAH, the Jewish rulers had condemned him to be crucified; but God had raised him from the dead, according to the predictions of the royal Psalmist. Paul therefore exhorted his hearers with the utmost earnestness to hearken to the glad tidings he brought, and to accept with joy the gracious offer he was commissioned to make them of remission of sins, and justification or acquittance from GoD, upon repentance, for their greater offences; for which they could not, by the Law of Moses, make atonement, nor obtain assurance of the mercy of GoD. He therefore besought them, as they valued the happiness of their immortal souls, not to reject the message he brought them, but to remember the awful language of the prophet Isaiah," Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare unto you." This was the substance of Paul's discourse, to which the Jews at that time made no reply; but whilst
they were going out, the Gentiles, of whom many were through curiosity assembled, entreated him to repeat his instructions on the ensuing sabbath.
When the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who gave them farther exhortations to confirm them in the faith.
On the next sabbath day, almost the whole city assembled together to hear the word of God; but the Jews continued strongly prejudiced against the message which had been delivered to them, and seeing the Gentiles collected in such numbers, they were filled with zeal for the honour of their law and nation; and not contented with contradicting and reviling Paul and Barnabas, they blasphemed, by representing the cause they were carrying on as a wicked one. The two Apostles, perceiving that no good impression could be made upon them, addressed them, saying, 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. For so hath the LORD commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. The Gentiles hearing that the way was now opened for their being admitted into covenant with GCD, and the benefits of the MESSIAH's kingdom, rejoiced greatly; and as many as were desirous of eternal life believed, and openly embraced the Gospel, which others who were indifferent about their future state neglected. They now united their labours with those of Paul and Barnabas, by which means the word of the LORD was published throughout all that region. But the Jews, provoked at this success, stirred up some women of