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until persecution, which arose about Stephen, scattered the disciples; and even then some of them, who came as far as Antioch, preached the word to none but unto the Jews only, (xi. 19.) However, eventually some men of Cyrene, (Africans,) for Cyrene was a place in Africa, “spake unto the Grecians preaching the Lord Jesus ;”-and the “hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed”. and then a Gentile Church was formed at Antioch, and with this first Gentile Church, raised by African preachers, originated the name Christian, as a designation applied to Christ's disciples—and from this same Church the first Mission was sent out. We shall notice,
I. The persons employed on this Mission.
I. The persons employed on this Mission were Paul and Barnabas. Of Barnabas little is recorded, Paul's history is well known. From the circumstance of the people of Lystra having supposed Barnabas to be their god Jupiter, and Paul to be the god Mercurius, the patron of eloquence, it is likely that Barnabas was a man of gravity and dignity in his manner, less prompt in his elocution than Paul. However, these two missionaries in addition to their natural qualifications, possessed supernatural endowments of a spiritual nature, and also the power of working miracles for the confirmation of the truth. Still they appear to have been subject, occasionally, to the same bad tempers and passions as other men; for when about to go on a second Mission, they differed in opinion concerning an assistant, and contested the point so sharply, as to cause a separation. Barnabas insisted on taking his relative Mark with them, and Paul obstinately refused to allow it, because Mark had abandoned them on a former occasion.
If men so eminently qualified, so richly gifted, so expressly appointed or called by Heaven, manifested such unconciliating tempers, we should not expect an entire absence of
human frailty in modern Missionaries, nor be discouraged when strifes occasionally arise, and separations take place. However, the example of the Apostles in this matter is not for imitation, but should induce watchfulness and caution; for by a sinful indulgence of temper, these two divinely selected servants of God were prevented from walking together in love, and from labouring together for the faith of the Gospel.
Paul, at the time of his wonderful conversion, when he saw a heavenly vision, was told by Jesus, that he would be sent to the Gentiles to open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God; and on the present occasion, when at Antioch with other teachers, the Holy Ghost said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereto I have called them." The divine operation on the human spirit, or communications from the Spirit of God to the soul of man, is a doctrine every where taught in the Bible from beginning to end; sometimes this influence operates in a manner known to the persons so operated on or influenced, and sometimes not; but of the Holy Spirit's work in striving with men, in regenerating and changing the hearts of men, in suggesting truth to the mind, and in comforting the souls of men, divine Revelation does not admit a doubt.
In every age, holy men of God have spoken and acted, in many cases, as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Not that the Holy Spirit's influences are in all places and all times alike, for in divers manners God spake in times past, by the inspired Prophets, before the coming of his Son; and subsequently, seeing Jesus promised to send the Comforter, and encouraged the children of God to pray for the Holy Spirit, it is manifest the Spirit's operations continue under the reign of the Messiah, that dispensation or method of divine rule under which we live, However, there is one great difference in the ministration of the Spirit in ordinary cases, and during the apostolic age; his suggestions or influences are not in later ages so certainly ascertainable; for our circumstances are different, the written word has long been complete, and it must be our guide. It is the rule according to, and it is the instrument
by which the Holy Spirit works. And therefore the Holy Ghost does not now suggest to the churches the names of those who are to be employed in ministering the word of life, whether that be in Christendom or in unchristianized lands, but gives the qualifications requisite, and the willing mind to which intimations the churches should attend with prayerful watchfulness, whilst to the individual concerned, the most abiding and most satisfactory evidence of being called will be a consciousness of unfeigned scriptural motives, and singleness of intention, with a deep sense of gratitude to God, and ardent benevolence to men; a readiness to spend and be spent for the elect's sake, that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
II. At Antioch Barnabas and Saul were, as it is said in our text,“ recommended to the grace of God.” Notwithstanding the express call of the Holy Spirit, received whilst the prophets and teachers were ministering to the Lord and fasting, it was still deemed right again to observe a season of fasting and prayer, at which they" (the prophets and teachers) laid their hands on the two Missionaries before sending them away. It does not appear in the Sacred Scriptures, that the Jewish Priests were ordained by any peculiar rite; but the Levites were dedicated by the laying on of the hands of the congregation, Num. viii. 10. Moses, at the appointment of Joshua to be his successor, received this command from the Almighty, “ Take thee Joshua, the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thy hand upon him, and give him a charge, and put of thine honour upon him, that the congregation may be obedient.” (Num. xxvii. 20.) In the New Testament, the Bishops and Presbyters were appointed by the laying on of hands; but “Barnabas and Paul,” (the Apostles as they are called in chap. xiv. 14.) were not on this occasion first commissioned to teach and to preach Jesus Christ, and therefore the circumstance of now laying hands on them is the more remarkable.
However, what is of the greatest importance here to observe is, the evident anxiety, the earnest desire to obtain, by
solemn intercession, the co-operation of the Almighty arm. It implies a strong conviction of the difficulty of the work to be accomplished, and a consciousness of merely human efforts being inadequate. This, indeed, has been the sentiment, and this the feeling of all God's eminent servants, from Moses to Paul, and from his time to the present day. Moses exclaimed, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt! How shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips !”—The Prophet Jeremiah wished to decline his arduous office, and expostulated, saying, “Ah, Lord God, I cannot speak, for I am a child !” and Paul, referring to the ministry of “ Christ's Gospel,” exclaims, “Who is sufficient for these things.” Such sentiments and feelings, when arising solely from humility and a desire to obtain divine aid, are exactly what they should be; but when mixed with timidity, the fear of man, distrust, the love of ease, and such unhallowed motives, they are so far wrong, and not to be indulged. When they are sincere and accompanied by love to God, they will not lead-a man to decline his Lord's service, but will lead him to fasting and prayer for God's help. And then he may say with humility, “If thy presence go not with me, send me not up hence.” And so, as in the cases above referred to, the answers from heaven will be as they were then, gracious and encouraging. The Lord replied to Moses thus, “Certainly I will be with thee-say not I am not eloquent, for who hath made man's mouthhave not I the Lord?--Now, therefore, go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.” Jeremiah received for answer, “Say not I am a child; thou shalt go, and whatever I command thee speak. Be not afraid of their faces, for I am with thee." And when Paul besought the Lord for help, the answer given him was this, "My grace is sufficient for thee."
All these examples should operate as a check both to presumption and to despondency, when men are engaged in the arduous work of the ministry. In the employment of humble, sincere, and zealous efforts, as directed by scripture precepts and examples, let the Lord's co-operation be sought
by abstinence and prayer, and then there is every reason to bope, that God will recognize such servants, as “workers together with him." Not that they must therefore be as successful as they wish, but their labour in the Lord, shall be graciously acknowledged and accepted.
III. The field of labour, occupied by Barnabas and Saul, on this first mission, was confined to Asia Minor: they did not pass into Europe, but returned to Antioch and Jerusalem : and after Paul went forth a second time, he and Silas did not think of leaving Asia, till the vision appeared to them of a Macedonian Greek, calling and beseeching them to pass over to Europe, and afford help. Judea was a province of the Roman empire, and beyond the limits of that empire they never went. Paul was a Roman citizen, and he never quitted the Roman empire; and there was, as yet, no general law of the empire against the Christian Missionaries : the opposition they met with, was only from the prejudices and enmity of their fellow-subjects; to whom, occasionally, the local magistrates listened, and lent their aid. Being permitted to travel every where, afforded them facilities, such as indeed all Missionaries who labour in the British empire enjoy, but which is not the case with those in some Pagan countries.
It is observable that these two Missionaries, although so eminently furnished by heaven with qualifications for their work, and under no necessity to learn a foreign language, did not go without an assistant; or, as he is called,
“minister,” one to serve and assist them. Moses had Joshua for his minister during his life-time, and for his successor after his death. Elijah bad Elisha to minister to him, and serve him, and to succeed him; and when the kings of Judah, Israel, and Edom, enquired for a Prophet of the Lord, Elisha was pointed out, as he who had poured water on the hands of Elijah ;* i. e. performed for him the
• In Java, and other countries of the East, it is still the usage for an attendant to "pour water on the hands” of a person when washing; under the same idea of cleanliness, as is suggested by bathing in a running stream; instead of bathing in stagnant water.