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النشر الإلكتروني

couragement of self-opinion, and should therefore be avoided.

QUESTION. Have I a feeling of pleasure in conducting an argument for its own sake? Am I ready to deny this feeling, whenever a simple reference to God's word ought to settle the question ?

3. This is one of the passages of Scripture which testify against the arrogant claims of the Romish communion, grounded upon the supposed supremacy of Peter over the other apostles, and the whole church. The Romanists maintain, that St. Peter was the head over all the other apostles, and that because he suffered martyrdom at Rome, therefore he left this right of headship to the bishops who followed him in that place. But it appears in this portion, that after the full establishment of the church, with its door already opened to the Gentiles, the assembled christians at Jerusalem, consisting not only of “the apostles,” but of the “ brethren" also, took Peter to task, in a manner entirely inconsistent with his supposed supremacy amongst them. At a time when Romanism is making great advances upon minds which are not sufficiently guarded against the plausible arguments brought forward, it is important to observe every testimony of Scripture. against that anti-christian system.

QUESTION. Do I consider Romanism as a form of the true church, however erroneous ? or do I look upon it as opposed to Scripture, and a form of antichrist? Have I tested its doctrine and system by the word of God?

THE PRAYER.

Thou God of love, who hast sent thine only Son to gather thy people and to make them one in thee, I beseech thee to overcome in me every prejudice, that I may be ready to acknowledge all the truths of thy holy word, however contrary to my settled notions; and also to receive in christian kindness and fellowship those whom my prejudices might otherwise lead me to avoid. Keep me from the love of argument, and from a controversial spirit;

and teach me the happiness and power of speaking the truth in love. Defend me from the delusions of false but plausible arguments, which might draw me from the simplicity of the faith that is in Christ Jesus; and might lead me to sympathize with the unscriptural doctrines of the apostacy of Rome. Guard me from its snares, preserve me from its sins, lest I should be partaker of the plagues which thou hast denounced against her, when thou shalt have said to the last of thy hidden ones within her, “Come out of her my people.'

Grant this, O gracious God, for the sake of Jesus Christ the Lord and Saviour. AMEN.

TWENTIETH PORTION.

The planting of the Church at Antioch. PLACE.Antioch. Time.-A.D. 41. to Spring, A.D. 43.

May God, for the sake of Jesus Christ, give me the Holy Spirit, that I may

understand this portion of His Holy Word, and profit by it.

AMEN.

THE SCRIPTURE.

Acts, chap. XI. verses 19 to 30. Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose 19 about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were 20 men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of 21 the Lord was with them : and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church 22 which was in Jerusalem : and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of 23 God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the 24 Holy Ghost and of faith : and much people was added unto the Lord.

Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul : and when he 25,26 had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the Church, [or, in the church,] and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

27 And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. 28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the

spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world : which 29 came to pass in the days of Claudius Cæsar. Then the disciples, every

man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren 30 which dwelt in Judæa : which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

EXPLANATION. We have already heard that, when the christians were forced to leave Jerusalem in consequence of the persecution that was raised after the martyrdom of Stephen, they went into various countries; and that they confined their preaching to those who were born Jews, not even including the Hellenist or Greek-speaking Jews who belonged to other countries. But now we find that some of these christians had come to Antioch, where they included the Hellenists in their instructions, and preached to them the gospel of Christ Jesus. The Lord was pleased to bless their preaching in an especial degree, so that a very large number of this class of Jews were converted. (See page 82.)

The news of this event was carried to Jerusalem : the apostles and whole body of christians there, having given up their exclusive prejudices, immediately commissioned Barnabas (Acts iv. 36, 37; see page 43) to ascertain the real condition of this multitude of converts. When he came amongst them, he had full proof that the work was a true one, wrought by the grace of God. He rejoiced at this, and earnestly exhorted them to go on in the good way, cleaving to the Lord with sincere affection. Barnabas was himself a man of much grace, with a strong faith, and full of the Holy Ghost; and his ministry amongst them upon this occasion not only confirmed those who had already believed, but was employed by God in drawing many others to Christ.

The promising state of the church at Antioch induced Barnabas to seek for apostolic assistance in settling and establishing it; and as Saul had gone to Tarsus, after having been driven from Jerusalem by the attempts to kill him, Barnabas went there to him, and induced Saul to return with him to Antioch; where they continued a twelvemonth, training up the new converts in the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. It was in this city that the name of " Christian” was first applied to the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, who before had been spoken of amongst themselves only as the brethren, the saints, or the disciples; and by others in such terms of reproach as Nazarenes, Galileans, &c.

During this year some christians who had received the gift of prophecy, came to Antioch from Jerusalem ; amongst these a man of the name of Agabus spoke by inspiration in one of the assemblies of the church, and declared that a great famine would come upon the Roman empire. This prophecy was fulfilled in the second year after its delivery, during the reign of the emperor Claudius Cæsar. Several heathen writers of the history of these times, have referred to this famine, which continued for several years, and afflicted various parts of the world. The christians at Antioch, in faithful anticipation of the affliction declared in prophecy by Agabus, immediately made a collection of money, to which

every man contributed according to his means, for the relief of the great multitude of poor christians residing in Judea. When they had gathered the money, they committed it to the care of Barnabas and Saul, desiring them to place it at once in the hands of the ministers of the church in Jerusalem ; for which purpose these two immediately proceeded thither.

APPLICATION.

1. While we see the gradual manner in which the prejudices of the Hebrew christians were subdued, we may recognise the great mercy of God in overcoming them by the powerful manifestation of his own love towards sinners of every class and nation. The great work of conversion that took place at Antioch, drew the attention of the christians of Jerusalem, who rejoiced upon finding that it was evidently of God. The exhortation of Barnabas to these converts, in the warmth of the first love just excited in their hearts, should be practically applied by every one under the lively feelings of early impressions. Such feelings are so apt to subside and pass away, their warmth to cool, and the original nature so often regains its standing within us, that nothing can be of more importance to a young christian, than to cultivate the spirit that cleaves unto the Lord with a full purpose of heart. The affections of the heart must be engaged—the will must purpose their sanctification, and they must be trained by habitual selfdiscipline, to cleave with an abiding dependance on the Lord Jesus Christ. Such a state of mind is that which alone fits us to pass through those trials, by which our faith is sure to be put to the test.

QUESTION. Is my religion a purpose of mind, or a purpose of heart ? Is it variable according to circumstances, or does it make me cleave unto the Lord ?

2. God makes use of various means, to preserve his people from those afflictions, which in the ordinary course of events fall upon the world. He prepared for the great famine in Egypt, by a dream given to Pharaoh, which he could not understand, but which God gave His servant Joseph grace to interpret. He announced the famine in the time of Claudius Cæsar to the christians at Antioch, by means of one of his prophets, to whom the Pagans around would not have given heed; but the people of Christ believed the prophecy, and thus in faith prepared for alleviating the evil. And this preparation drew forth the power of that love, which is the characteristic of the gospel : the richer christians in the wealthy city of Antioch readily gave of their substance, towards the wants of the more numerous body of their brethren in the less affluent country of Judea. And it should be observed, that this collection for the relief of others, is stated as the immediate consequence of receiving the warning concerning the distress that was to come. This token of the brotherly love which filled the hearts of the christians at Antioch was not put off as a secondary matter; but when the famine was foretold, then "every man according to his ability determined to send relief unto the brethren.”

QUESTION. In anticipating times of difficulty, do I distinguish between superstitious anxiety and christian prudence? What degree of importance do I attach to the wants of others in such cases? how nearly do I consider them equal to my own?

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