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tradicted Paul's preaching, but treated him with ill manners and abusive language.
But these contumelies and reproaches neither affected nor discouraged the christian heroes, who openly deGlared, that they had now performed their charge by preaching the gospel first to the Jews, before they applied themselves to the Gentile world. “ But,” added they,
“ since ye Jews behave yourselves so obstinately and perversely, that you have become utterly unworthy and incapable of any benefit by the gospel, we are now by appointment to leave you, and preach to the Gentiles. For this was the direction of God, that Christ being preached to the Jews first, and being rejected by them, should be preached to all other people of the world ; and this is the sùm of that ancient prophecy of Isaiah xlix. 6. " Thou shalt be for salvation to the ends of the earth.”
When the Gentiles heard, that this pardon of sin and salvation by Christ was allowed to them, they rejoiced, and blessed the name of God for this glorious mercy of bis, revealed in the gospel; and as many of those who were present, as were, according to the gracious purpose of God, and by the influence of his grace, prepared for eternal life, openly embraced the gospel : and as these new converts heartily joined with Paul and Bar. nabas to propagate the truth, the word of the Lord was carried on, as with a mighty torrent, throughout all that region. But the Jews, exasperated at this success, stirred up some women of considerable rank, who applied to the magistrates of the city, exciting them to persecute the preachers of the gospel; in consequence of which they were driven away with violence and injustice. But the apostles seeing their obstinacy, used that fatal ceremony* appointed by Christ in this case, thereby foretelling the destruction which would soon overtake them, and leaving them in this desperate state, with curses hanging over their heads, they went to Iconium. But all the christians were filled with spiritual joy, and proceeded zealously in the ways of God.
Ceremony. Shaking off the dust of their feet, Matt. X. 14.
Whilst these two courageous champions of the church preached the gospel at Iconium, in such a powerful and convincing manner, that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks received the faith, the base unbe. lieving Jews, incensed the unconverted gentiles against the apostles and their converts : yet they tarried some time there, preaching the gospel in their public assemblies, and God added his testimony to what they said, by enabling them to work miracles. But notwithstanding the mighty influence they had over the minds of those that were piously inclined, the Jews had made a great party against them, insomuch, that the multitude were divided, some holding with the Jews, and others with the apostles. But they, to prevent the mischief which so great a concourse of people must necessarily occasion, and to preserve themselves from the danger that threatened them, prudently withdrew from Iconium, and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the country thereabout; where they preached the gospel.
While they were at Lystra, a very extraordinary event took place. A poor cripple, lame from his birth, being one of the apostle's auditors, was particularly observed by Paul, who looking earnestly upon him, and either by his words, overheard by Paul, or by his own discerning spirit, perceiving that he believed they were able to cure him, Paul speaking to him, loud enough to be heard by the rest of the assembly, said, “ Stand upright on thy feet.” The poor man, in a dependance on the power of Christ, immediately attempted it, and was so miraculously helped, that he sprung up with astonishing agility, and walked about with the greatest ease. When the people beheld this wonderful cure, they concluded that it could not have been effected but by the immediate presence of a Deity; and therefore running about in great confusion, they exclaimed aloud, “The gods are descended in the likeness of men.” And Barnabas being a person of more majestic appearance, they called Jupiter, and Paul, who was a small active man, they named Mercury, the god of eloquence. But as soon as this mi.. racle came to the ears of the priest of Jupiter, who was deemed the tutelar deity of that place, they came to the
place where Paul and Barnabas were, bringing oxen crowned with garlands, intending to offer sacrifice to them. But the apostles, abhorring such blasphemy, rent their garments in detestation of it, saying, “ Sirs, Why do
ye these things? We are but men ourselves, subject to the passions of human nature like you, and are come to convert you from these idolatries, and to persuade you to the service of the living God, who made heaven and earth, and all things therein, who in times past left the Gentiles to their own blind worship, but sufficiently at the same time evidenced himself to them by the great blessings of temporal things, in bestowing fruitful seasons, the particular acts of his power and bounty, to dissuade_ them from their impieties.
These arguments, though urged by the apostles with so much vehemence, could scarcely restrain them from sacrificing. But while Paul and Barnabas were labouring for the recovery of these poor idolaters, some unbelieving Jews, who came from Antioch and Iconium, fearing the people should be persuaded to the truth, instigated the giddy multitude to join with them against the apostles, and easily prevailing, they in a tumultuous manner threw stones at them, and Paul falling, they believed they had killed him : in which condition they dragged him out of the city as dead. But as the christians there came to inter his body, he rose up, and went privately with them into the city, and the next day Barnabas and he departed to Derbe, where having preached the gospel, and converted many to the faith, they returned to Lystra, Ico. nium, and Antioch; in which places they confirmed the disciples in the faith, and exhorted them to perseverance, telling them that they must suffer many tribulations be. fore they could arrive at heaven. And when they had constituted presbyters for them in every church by fasting and prayer, they took their leave of them, recommending them to the good providence of Christ, whose faith they had received. Ånd after they had passed through Pisidia they came to Pamphylia, and having preached the gospel in Perga, they went to Attalia, and thence came by sea to Antioch, from whence they had, by divine appointment, been solemnly recommended to the grace of God for the work which they had so vigo. rously prosecuted, and so happily accomplished. And when they had assembled the church, they gave an ac. count of their embassy, how it had pleased God, that by their preaching to the Jews in the Gentile cities, many Gentiles had received the faith. In which place they abode with the disciples a long time.
And here some converted Jews, who came from Jeru. salem, though they believed in Christ, yet thought them. selves bound to the observation of the whole Mosaical law, insisted upon it both in public and private, that the Gentile christians must submit to the whole law, and be circumcised, or else they could not be saved. This Paul and Barnabas strenuously opposed, and no small debate was excited. This question being of great importance, the church determined to send Paul, Barnabas, and other brethren to the apostles and elders at Jerusalem, to know their sentiments on this grand subject. As they passed through Pbenice and Samaria, they told them the occasion of their journey, and all the christians were glad that this question was like to be determined. When they ar. rived at Jerusalem they were kindly received by the whole church, and declaring the great success God had given to their preaching among the Gentiles, they informed them of their message.
This gave occasion to some of the Pharisees who had become christians to rise, and say, that though they heartily rejoiced in the conversion of the heathen, they judged it absolutely necessary to circumcise them, and charge them to observe the whole law of Moses. Others being of a different opinion, a day was fixed for the solemn discussion of this matter in a full assembly. The day appointed being come, the apostles and elders met together to consult on the affair ; when, after much debate, Peter arose and thus addressed himself to the audience.
“ Men and brethren, it is well known to you all, that some time since God made choice of me to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, particularly to Cornelius and his family: and God who knew the sincerity of their hearts, testified that they were acceptable to him, and fit to be
baptized, bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost upon them, as he had before upon us, making no distinction between us and them, having purified their hearts as well as ours by true faith. By this one act of God to them, it is plainly and fully determined;
why then do ye press this thing so contrary to the will of God, and impose upon the Gentile converts the performance of the Mosaical law, which belonged not to them, and which we Jews were so far from being able to perform, that we could not be justified by it? For through the great mercy of God, it is by the gospel we expect salvation and justification, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and not by the observation of the Mosaical law. Whence it is plain, that if the Gentiles believe, they have the same way to salvation aś we ourselves have."
Then Paul and Barnabas, in confirmation of what Peter had said, declared what miracles God had done by them in the conversion of the Gentiles, which was another testimony from heaven, that no difference ought to be made between the Jews and Gentiles. After they had done speaking, the apostle James, requesting the serious attention of the council, addressed them to the following effect : “ Our beloved brother, Simon, hath sufficiently demonstrated, that it was the will of God (as in the case of Cornelius) that the Gentiles should without scruple have the Gospel preached to them, and be baptized. And this is agreeable to what hath been foretold by the prophets, for they are the words of God by Amos [ix. 11, 12.] Tv In the latter days I will return, and build up the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down, and I will build again the ruins thereof, and will set it up; that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles who call upon my name, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.” Now this prediction is agreeable to the wise plan of the divine government, for all his works are from eternity known unto God. Therefore my conclu. sion is, “ That we should not compel them to be circumcised, who from Gentiles become christians, but content ourselves if they believe. For we that are Jews need not fear, that this will bring a contempt upon Moses or the laws of the Jews, since the contrary appears by the chris