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yet have you not returned unto me, saith the Lord." This hard-hearted impenitence, notwithstanding both judgments and mercies, is a very common sin. Every deliverance from sickness or from death, or from any imminent danger, should lead us to serious reflection, to repentance and to prayer, to reformation, and to the Saviour. But a hard impenitent heart denies the goodness of divine Providence, and attributes mercies and blessings to good-luck, and afflictions to chance ; and, under this unhappy state of mind, man will not return to the Lord, nor submit to the hand that chastises him.
In the midst of this hard-hearted ungrateful impenitence, the prophet says, “ The people of that time put far away the evil day," and indulged in luxury and carelessness; they stretched themselves upon their magnificent couches, selected the best of the lambs and calves for intemperate feasts ; chanted to the sound of the viol, invented to themselves instruments of music, drank wine in bowls, and perfumed themselves with the chief perfumes; but they were not grieved nor concerned for the affliction of their poor and oppressed brethren, who suffered from famine, pestilence, and war.
And to sum up these sins, they hated the days appointed for prayer and religious instruction, and wished them gone, that they might make more money to consume upon their lusts; to sell corn, and set forth wheat with their unjust measures, and false balances to deceive and to defraud. And after all this, they hated him that rebuked them, and abhorred him that spoke uprightly.
Yet in the midst of all this wickedness, they kept up some form of religion for a fair pretext; they had certain holidays, and offered sacrifices, and sung anthems.
The wickedness, and folly, and hypocrisy of Judah and Israel, too much resemble what is the case in our own day; and the use we should make of the prophet's censures, is, for every man to examine his own heart, to judge himself, and prepare to meet his God. The way to prepare,
is not to try to cover over or hide our transgressions, for that is impossible. Nor must we
Saviour, who is able to save to the uttermost, all poor sinners that come to God by him. The Christian's faith is, in my opinion, very rational; the wicked, or self-righteous man's faith is foolishness and the most miserable credulity.
Finally, since life is so short, and the time of death so uncertain, and often sudden and unexpected, of which we in this ship had lately a melancholy example;* let these considerations, amongst better reasons and motives, induce us all to endeavour to be ready, and constantly prepared to meet our God in judgment; for we know not the day nor the hour when the summons of death may come; nor wbether it will be at midnight or in the morning. By submission to the divine Redeemer, exercising faith in him, and what he hath taught, cherishing love to him in our hearts and practising obedience in our lives, we shall always be
ready to meet our God”—for he rejoiceth to meet the penitent sinner; to forgive and to acquit, and to justify and sanctify, to save and bless him.
* Benjamin Hill fell and was drowned at sea on the night of Feb. 22, 1824, or rather about four o'clock in the morning of the 23d.
DELIVERED IN THE SCOTCH SECEDER'S CHAPEL, MILES's LANE, LONDON,
APRIL 11, 1824.
[The personal and relative duties of Christians are from Sabbath to Sabbath, the theme of animating discourses from the pulpit; and the mercies of God our Saviour are daily exhibited to guilty men that they may be saved. I would this morning take a wider range, and digress a little to those duties which Christian churches owe to those still large portions of the great human family, which heretofore have remained unacquainted with revealed religion; and endeavour to ascertain our duty from a review of the past. The subject cannot be so interesting to each individual, as that which concerns his or her personal salvation; but yet, as it concerns the salvation of others, it should not be uninteresting to any Christian.]
THE MISSIONARY'S REHEARSAL,
Acts, xiv. 26, 27. “ And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been re
commended to the grace of God for the work which they ful. filled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles."
Barnabas and Paul, from Attalia sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God, for the work which they fulfilled; and when they were
come (to Antioch) and had gathered all the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.
He was an inhabitant of Africa, Simon, of Cyrene, who bore the cross of Christ our Saviour, when led forth to crucifixion, and certain men of Cyrene, in Africa, first preached, or told* the good news, concerning the Lord Jesus, to the Grecians at Antioch.
Antioch was a large town, the capital of Syria, about 200 miles north of Jerusalem, (Acts, xi. 20.) Here these African preachers founded a Helenistic,t or Greek proselyte church. Here the disciples were first called Christians, and from this church the first formal Christian Mission was sent forth. This church continued famous for several ages, and produced, 300 years afterwards, the celebrated preacher Chrysostom, the bishop and patriarch.
Barnabas and Saul being separated for the missionary work, to which the Holy Spirit called them, were sent forth, after fasting, prayer, and the laying on of hands. They made a missionary tour of about 1,500 miles, in that part of the then Roman empire now called Asia Minor. They themselves were subjects of the Roman empire, and beyond its limits they did not go. They did not even pass at this time into the European part of the empire. They were absent about two years, speaking, as opportunities offered, both to Jews and Gentiles, concerning the Lord Jesus, and testifying the Gospel of the grace of God. They met with much opposition, and had some success, the Lord working with them, and several Christian societies or churches were formed in different places.
These things occurred about twelve or thirteen years after our Saviour's ascension, whilst Claudius I., the then Emperor of Rome, and his generals, were in Britain, waging
war against the chief, Caractacus, and effecting the conquest of our uncivilized pagan ancestors.
An interesting and edifying narrative of the transactions and discourses of these two divinely appointed Missionaries, is contained in the 13th and 14th chapters of the Acts of the Apostles.
When they returned to Antioch, they gathered the church together, as our text says, and rehearsed all that God had done with them, and now he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.*
The words in which Barnabas and Saul, (or Paul as he was now called, for he seems to have changed his name during his absence,t) rehearsed their transactions, are not given us; but by looking over the narrative, we can ascertain the substance of their rehearsal. At Cyprus, they had, apparently, but one convert; and at this early part of their tour, John, their assistant deserted them, and went from Perga to Jerusalem. At Antioch, in Pisidia, the Jews, their own countrymen, persecuted them, but some of the Gentiles heard the word gladly, and glorified the word of the Lord.
At Iconium, both Jews and Gentiles attempted to stone them to death; at Lystra, the Pagan priests idolized them, and called them gods; at Derbe they preached the Gospel and taught many; and on their return, passing through Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, (at each of which places some few appear to have become disciples,) they confirmed their minds, and exhorted them to continue in the faith, and bear patiently afflictions, for these must be passed through in the Christian's way to the kingdom of God. And having (Xelprovnoavtes) elected or appointed senior disciples, or elders to preside in the new formed societies or churches, they commended them to the Lord, with fasting and prayer. During this Mission the Lord not only accompanied their discourses, reasonings, and instructions, with the energies
+ Supposed to have been changed in compliment to Sergius Paulus, the convert at Cyprus.