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in the application of our active exertions to send the gospel to those who do not yet know it, it deserves serious consideration whether we ought not to follow their example, by considering the spiritual wretchedness of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile.
What share of my prayers and of my exertions are devoted to the spiritual wants of the Jews? Do I remember the obligation I owe them for the gospel, which they do not themselves receive?
2. And while the apostle delivered the message of salvation to the Jews, his manner of opening the gospel to them was adapted to their peculiar feelings, and their especial knowledge:-" to the Jews he became as a Jew, that he might gain the Jews." (1 Cor. ix. 20.) This adaptation to circumstances and feelings was without the least compromise of essential truth, and with the most faithful personal application. The history of Israel was introduced, to lead to the knowledge of Jesus as the Christ; and the raising up of David, in order to speak of the fulfilment of God's promise of raising up a Saviour to Israel in the Son of David. Another feature of this discourse, is its constant reference to the word of God, with application to its one great end, the testifying of Jesus the Saviour to the souls of men.
Do I seek to be all things to all men, in the sense in which Paul sought to be so? and for what purpose? Do I seek to make every conversation lead to the glory of Christ? How do I make use of the Scriptures to that end?
Thou God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, hear my supplications on behalf of thine antient people, upon whom thou hast placed thy great name; and of whom, as concerning the flesh, thine own well-beloved Son came. thank thee, gracious Saviour, that thou hast sent unto me the knowledge of thy salvation: give me grace to shew my thankfulness for this thy benefit, by endeavouring to stir up thine antient people to lay hold on thy salvation;
and grant thy blessing on all means used for that purpose. Dispose my heart to strive so to become all things to all men, that my conduct may commend the doctrine of Jesus and his gospel to all with whom I have intercourse. Teach me to glorify thee in all things, and to improve every opportunity for the application of thy word. I ask all in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
The Gospel preached to the Gentiles at Antioch in Pisidia. PLACE.-Antioch in Pisidia. TIME.-A.D. 44.
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. XIII. verses 44 to 52.
And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear 45 the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were
filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by 46 Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves 47 unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, 'I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.'" 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. 50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the
chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, 51 and expelled them out of their coasts. But they shook off the dust of 52 their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.
On the first sabbath day following that on which Paul had preached in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia, a great crowd assembled from every part of the city to hear him again. Such a popular feeling, excited the jealousy
of the Jews; who told the people that what Paul was preaching was false and wicked, and tried by every thing they could say to hinder them from attending to him. But this conduct only induced Paul and Barnabas to be the more earnest and bold in preaching the Gospel. Addressing the Jews, they told them, that they had fulfilled the duty of their commission by opening the truth of God to the children of Abraham first; but that since they chose to reject the message, and did not consider themselves proper subjects for the eternal life freely offered to them, they would now turn to the heathen, and preach the gospel to them, according to the command which the Lord Jesus had given them. (Luke xxiv. 47. Matt. xxviii. 19.) Jesus the Messiah was the same of whom the prophet Isaiah had written, "I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth." (Isa. xlix. 6.)
The Gentiles, who heard this declaration made by the apostles, were rejoiced and gave praise to God, that the blessing of His word was offered to them. God had a people in that city, whose names were written in the book of life; and though they were not known by the apostles, yet the preaching of the gospel brought them forth; the Holy Spirit applied the power of the truth to their hearts, and they believed. God's word was proclaimed in consequence, in all the country round about this city of Antioch, and the Jews perceived that it was necessary to resort to further means to hinder Paul and Barnabas. They addressed themselves to the most influential class of people, through the wives of some of those who had become Jewish proselytes; and thus they influenced the magistrates and rulers of the city, who found occasion to proceed violently against Paul and Barnabas, and by this means drive them out of the neighbourhood. But as they departed, they remembered the directions of the Lord concerning those who would not hear the word of the gospel (Matt. x. 14, 15), and they shook off the dust from their feet in testimony against the opposers of Antioch, as they set forward on their journey to Iconium. They had however done the Lord's work in the place, and they left behind them a great blessing, which remained
when they were gone; the Holy Ghost came upon disciples who had turned to the gospel, and filled them with a lively joy.
1. It was the jealousy of privilege which first drew forth the violent opposition from these Jews to whom the gospel was preached. They could not bear that multitudes of persons whom they despised, should share in that salvation which they had proudly considered as belonging to themselves alone: and it is through a like spirit, that formalist professors in the present day resist and resent the doctrine of free grace, which admits to spiritual life even the greatest sinners, who gladly receive Christ Jesus. Such opposition to evangelical truth has continued from that day to this; and under its power, multitudes who judge themselves worthy of eternal life, according to their own principles, shew that they consider themselves unfit for the salvation of the gospel. The opposition of such persons may indeed be made powerful, by worldly influence, against those who maintain the truth as it is in Jesus; but every successful resistance may be said to shake off the dust of the feet as a testimony, which will rise up hereafter against all who refuse to receive the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What effect is produced upon my temper by the advancement of the evangelical doctrines of free salvation by Christ Jesus? Does it make me angry? Do I ever feel pleasure at ill consequences which may result to those who profess it?
2. Whatever difficulty may exist in some minds with respect to God's electing grace, there can be no doubt that God has been pleased to ordain some to eternal life, and that these are brought by providential circumstances within those means of grace, which become effectual to their conversion. This doctrine is assuredly found in the Scriptures; and it is unreasonable to deny to Him who created all things the power of choice in granting free favors. Many stumble at this doctrine, because they suppose it to imply what is called the doctrine of reprobation, with
which however it has no Scriptural or necessary connection. And it is often forgotten, that the election of God takes place in His counsels absolutely secret from us; and that, while the gospel offer of salvation is commanded to be made to all, its effectual application to as many as are "ordained to eternal life," can only be discovered by us, because all such persons are "predestinated to be conformed to the image" of Christ, and "chosen in Him that they should be holy." (Rom. viii. 29. Eph. i. 4.) The evidence therefore of having received so great a mercy, can only be found in that holiness of life, which manifests a growing conformity to the image of Christ.
Is my mind shocked by the doctrine that some persons are ordained unto eternal life? and if so, why? Am I living in at least some conformity to Christ's character? and if I hope so, by what power is this effected in me?
Merciful Father, I pray thee to humble my heart, that I may never be puffed up with such a notion of my own privileges, as may make me jealous of the freeness of salvation to any others. I praise thee for the fulness of the love of Christ in saving the greatest sinners, and for all the blessings of His gospel. Give me, O Lord, such powerful grace as may overcome the pride and evil of my heart, and make me submit to thy sovereign will. Grant that I may daily grow more conformed to the character of Christ, and more filled with a good hope that, when the Lamb's book of life shall be opened, my name may be seen written therein, through the atonement and righteousness of the same gracious Saviour. AMEN.