« ZurückWeiter »
of the circumstances which accompanied this honor put upon Saul, was the counterpoise of inward temptation that was rendered necessary, through the corruption of human nature, lest "the abundance of the revelations" should have the effect of puffing him up. After favouring him with this vision, God saw fit to withdraw the restraint from the subtle enemy, who then sent to Saul one of his messengers to buffet him." (2 Cor. xii. 7-9.) True it is that this effort of Satan led him to earnest prayer-true also that God gave him grace sufficient to meet the attack, and resist the messenger-yet are we assured that all this process was necessary to avoid the consequences that would result from the excess of honor put upon Saul, had he been left to himself. All this is seldom sufficiently considered by many; who, while they "covet earnestly the best gifts," neglect to cultivate the humility that belongs to "the more excellent way," to which the apostle at the same time directs attention. (1 Cor. xii. 31; xiii.)
Have I been favoured with more spiritual knowledge and gifts than some others? or do I seek to be so favoured? Do I glory in these gifts? What is the ground of my glorying? Do I give ALL the glory to God? Am I ready to undertake the labours for which such gifts are a preparation? Am I through grace resisting the temptations by which such gifts are often accompanied?
3. It is delightful to trace the affectionate readiness of the christians of Jerusalem, in providing for the safety of the same brother, whom a fortnight before they treated with coldness and distrust. Here we see the fruits of the good work of Barnabas, in making the christians acquainted with the true state of Saul's case. Similar fruits are abundant in every christian society; persons who have kept some doubted one at a distance, presently find, through the means of friendly intercourse, that they have wasted precious time in chilling fears that might have been sweetened with kindly affection. It needed only a few days to make this change, a rapidity which worldly hearts cannot understand; they require a long time to gather up the materials for that sympathy and fellow feeling, out of which affectionate
friendship is formed: but true christians need but to find out that others are in Christ, and at once they know, that drawing all their affections from the same source, and bending all their interests to the same object, there must be materials for the sympathy which grows rapidly into love. How comforting it is to mark the growth of such love in the brethren, who having been "all afraid of him a fortnight before, now, when they knew of his danger, "brought him down to Cæsarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.
How far do I allow former prejudices and doubts concerning any christian to influence me, after they ought to have been dispelled? Can any remains of such feelings be traced in a backwardness to assist such a one afterwards?
O God, whose mercy endureth for ever, look down with mercy upon me, and bestow upon me that spirit of brotherly kindness which will enable me to promote love and peace amongst thy people. Give me grace to be wise and diligent in clearing the mistakes, and removing the prejudices, which I may perceive amongst those who call upon the same Lord. And if thou art pleased in mercy to bless me with such gifts, as may be successful in this or any other effort of christian duty, if thou dost in any way graciously bestow on me especial favour, grant that I may never glory, save in the cross of Christ Jesus my Saviour. Keep me humble, and make me ready to use these gifts and mercies with such increased diligence and zeal as additional favour requires. Above all, leave me not to the devices and temptations of the enemy, who may be permitted to try me lest I be exalted above measure. Give me grace sufficient for every trial, and make me more than conqueror through Christ who hath loved me. Do thou, O God, so enlarge my heart as to overcome every prejudice, every narrow or selfish thought, that might check the manifestation of my love towards any of the brethren; and make me ready to devote myself to the furtherance of thy work, and the help of thy people, in Christ Jesus our Saviour. Amen. ·
Peter's miracles on Æneas and Dorcas.
PLACE.-Lydda and Joppa.
TIME.-Spring, A.D. 41.
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.
ACTS, chap. IX. verses 31 to 43.
Then had the churches rest throughout all Judæa and Galilee and 31 Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.
And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came 32 down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. And there he found a certain 33 man named Æneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy And Peter said unto him, " Æneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee 34 whole arise and make thy bed." And he arose immediately. And all 35 that dwelt in Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.
Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple name Tabitha, which by 36 interpretation is called Dorcas [or, Doe, or, Roe]: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. And it came to pass in 37 those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh 38 to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay [or, be grieved] to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was 39 come, they brought him into the upper chamber and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. But Peter put them all forth, and 40 kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, "Tabitha, arise." And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the 41 saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it was known throughout 42 all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord. And it came to pass that 43 he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.
During the latter part of the time that Paul had been residing at Damascus and Jerusalem, (as was explained in the last portion) the christians in general had been permitted to remain quiet and more undisturbed, than at any
period since the martyrdom of Stephen. The plots against Saul by the Jews at Damascus, and the Hellenists at Jerusalem, must have been individual instances of personal opposition, arising from the prominent part which that apostle took in preaching the gospel; more especially when this was contrasted with his former eminence as a persecutor.
By referring to the history of these times, we may find a sufficient reason to account for this lull in the storm, to which the infant church had been exposed. The Roman emperor Caius Caligula had determined that his subjects should look upon him in the light of a god, and perform acts of worship to his statue, which was placed in various temples. It appears that the Greeks of Alexandria, being desirous of exciting the emperor against the Jews in that city, made many complaints of them to him; and stated amongst other things, that while other nations paid him divine honors, the Jews refused to do so. This induced Caius to give directions to his governor in Syria, that he should require the Jews to set up a statue of the emperor in their temple at Jerusalem; and if they refused to do this, Petronius the governor was to lead a Roman army against them, and effect his purpose by force. This took place in the middle of the year 40; and it produced a great excitement amongst all the Jews, which lasted for a whole twelvemonth: during which time the public attention must have been too much occupied by this attempt to defile their temple with idolatry, to permit of their continuing that active opposition to the christians, to which their minds had been before exclusively devoted. Thus it was that the various bodies of christians in every part of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, were left at peace; so that they were strengthened and built up in the doctrines of the gospel, and were enabled to manifest by their conduct in all the relations of life, that they were influenced by the fear of God, and comforted by the power of the Holy Ghost. This time of rest and peace gave opportunity to many to observe the conduct of the christians, and become acquainted with their doctrine; by which means many Jews became converted, and swelled the numbers of Christ's church.
This quiet time afforded also an opportunity for visiting the different companies of christians, who were living in the various towns and villages. The apostle Peter took a journey for this purpose, in the course of which he came to the christians in the large village of Lydda. Here he found a man named Eneas, who had been confined to his bed for eight years by palsy. Peter addressing him by name, told him that Jesus, the true Messiah, was restoring him to health and strength, while His minister was speaking the words. Then he bid him rise up, and give a proof of the strength thus imparted to him, by making the bed on which he lay. The sick man immediately rose and did as he was instructed. This miracle had an immediate effect upon all the inhabitants of Lydda, and of the villages and towns of the valley of Sharon, at the end of which Lydda was situated; for Eneas went amongst them in his restored state, and when the people saw this proof of the power of Jesus, they believed and gave themselves to the Lord.
There were a number of christians in the seaport town of Joppa, (now called Jaffa), and amongst them a person of eminent piety, whose name was Tabitha. According to the custom of those days, in which the inhabitants of these countries were called by Greek or Latin names, as well as by those which belonged to them in their own language, this woman was known by the Greek name of Dorcas (which is the female of a roebuck). Tabitha was a person full of good works, diligent and self-denying in relieving others both out of her worldly means, and by the work of her own hands. She was taken ill and died, just at the time that Peter performed the miracle upon Eneas at Lydda. The christians at Joppa which was not far off soon heard that Peter was at Lydda. They accordingly sent two of their number to him, with an earnest request that he would come to them as soon as possible. He immediately consented, and came back with the messengers upon his arrival at Joppa, they took him to the house of Dorcas, where the body had been laid out and placed ready for burial in an upper room. To this room they led Peter, where he found the customary preparations for the funeral; a number of widows making lamentations, and speaking the praises of the deceased,