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England," " The Building of a Commonwealth,” &c. Althongh a new departure in modern book-writing, the method itself is as old as the Bible. God, whenever great movements were to be inaugurated, and great advances to be made along the line of His kingdom, has always laid bare the powers behind such movements, and made clear the factors that have led to success.
The present lesson is not an exception. In it are revealed the elements that gave Barnabas and Saul their success as the first Christian missionaries, and the power that sent them forth. The order of thought before us will be as follows:
The Three Elements of Success in the First Christian Missionaries.
I. These men were in earnest. It is no dead church on which we are permitted to look as the chapter opens before us. In the persecution that arose from the death of Stephen the followers of Jesus were scattered abroad and journeyed as far as Phenice, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the Gospel of Christ with such power and fervour that at Antioch a great number believed nd tu unto the Lord. Hearing of this success of the Gospel, the Church at Jerusalem sent them, as their preacher, Barnabas, a 'good man," "full of faith" "and the Holy Ghost.” His ministry was crowned with marked results in gathering converts; and, wishing for help, he sought ont Saul and brought him to Antioch. God gives no message to the lazy.
II. These men were Spirit-commissioned. The Holy Ghost said,” &c. Sometimes in our Western mountains the traveller discovers a stream of sparkling water leaping from the bosom of the cliffs and making its way toward the plain below. As he follows its course it suddenly disappears beneath the surface, indicating its channel, if at all, by here and there a tree growing among the heaped-up boulders ; miles below he finds a quiet pool edged with rushes and starred with lilies, and from its lower rim a river flowing to the sea, and the traveller comes to understand that the spring in the mountain, the clear lake in the clusty plain, and the river with its ceaseless current moving oceanward are all parts of one great nature-plan of God. So in the lesson before us, when the Holy Ghost said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul," it was a step in the fulfilment of a Divine purpose toward which the Spirit had
III. These men were obedient. Having waited for direction from God the Church received it willingly, and because the communication had come in the midst of prayer they continued in prayer; because fasting had brought them nearer to God they fasted still, and, laying their hands on the chosen ones in token of blessing, sent them forth. As they departed, note the divinely human way in which they went about their work. The exercise of common sense in religious matters is always a token of the presence of the Holy Ghost. They went directly to the nearest sea-port, Seleucia, and took ship for the nearest heathen island, Cyprus, and, hastily touching its most important cities, made directly for the mainland of Pamphylia, a place where the various races met and mingled. God always directs missionary effort to centres of dispersion or centres of power. With this wisdom of choice there was an intensely human element. This journey was a home-going. Cyprus was the home of Barnabas. Pamphylia bordered close on Paul's native land. The message spoken years before to another, "Go home and tell thy friends," re-echoed in this new revelation. In its simplest forms it is the impulse to help some one that is near and dear to us. In its missionary form it is the world-enlightening impulse of the king. dom of God, just as acquisition is the race impulse of the Anglo-Saxon. As they went forth, then, obedience was sanctioned by a victory over the powers of superstition. The work at Paphos, which occupies so large a part of the lesson text, is but an incident by the way in the great movement that, starting at Antioch, is to reach the ends of the world. Gospel earnestness and Gospel obedi. ence came face to face with superstition, and the touch of the Spirit drove the pretender into disgrace. Such has been, and always will be, the history of normal missionary work.-(M. F. Colburn.)
PAUL'S FIRST MISSIONARY SERMON. each event being brought out. They were not Acts xiii. 26-43.
treated doctrinally. Nothing was said about This is the first recorded sermon of the Apostle a doctrine of atonement and a doctrine of Paul. He had preached in Damascus before resurrection. He gathered the facts before he this, but what he said has not been preserved. stated the truth he wished to get out of them. This discourse was delivered in a synagogue That kind of doctrinal preaching is always in the city of Antioch in Pisidia. The study acceptable, always powerful, and it is the truly of the sermons of the Bible is interesting and scientific method of preaching. profitable to preachers and laymen alike. The matter of Paul's address was fresh and They are models of how religious truth should timely. It is one of the chief features in be presented to the hearer.
Biblical sermons that they deal with affairs 1. We cannot but admire the way in which relating to a present condition of things. Paul handled himself and his subject matter Hence they are intensely practical. He used at that critical time; and, examining first Scripture in such a way as to make it serve a Paul's method, we call to mind the fact that present necessity.
Paul teaches religious this address was made to those who greatly teachers a lesson by his devotion to the needs differed from him. It was an attempt to of his own time. He suggests that the Bible overcome the prejudices and unbelief of an should be studied with reference to the social, unsympathetic audience. He was a stranger civil, and religious crises of the present. and with a new truth. The problem was to The aim of Paul was to present a way of make them friendly to himself and his message. salvation. His message in some portions of “Men of Israel, and ye that fear God." He it was destructive, for he did not hesitate to assumed that they had a moral earnestness in demolish the old teaching of justification by accordance with a fear of God, even though Moses' law. He opened a new way of sal. he did not know them personally. He con- vation as soon as He closed the old way. ciliated his hearers at the outset, and put To be sure he deals faithfully with the them in a quiescent frame of mind. This we sins of the Jews; but the preaching of find to be a characteristic of most of the sin was not his main purpose, but the addresses of the Bible. May not missionaries giving of glad messages of salvation. The find suggestions here as to how to deal with entire address is hopeful. It was uttered as the other religions with which they come into though Paul expected his hearers would contact ? find out all in them that it is possible accept what he said. All true preaching of to accept; be eager to point out resemblances the Gospel must bear the Gospel mark of hope. of these different faiths to Christianity ; give If the Gospel is good news, then the preaching credit to false religions for every bit of truth of the Gospel must necessarily be cheerful and they contain.
comforting. Great preachers of the world Another feature of Paul's inethod was that have been hopeful men. Their words have he used the channels for reaching the people breathed forth among men the spirit of already in existence. He began his preaching courage and trust. in the synagogue, a place held in honour and III. It remains now to notice briefly the reverence by the Jews. He would not have result of Paul's preaching.
Was it a success? the Jews think he was seeking to originate Did he do any good! To ask these questions institutions or forms hostile to theirs. The is to answer them. No such message as he ordinary channels for dispensing truth are so gave was ever anything else than successful. many in these days that rarely is there an The Scripture says concerning this sermon, excuse for opening new ones.
“And as they went out they besought that II. Without dwelling longer upon the these words might be spoken to them the next method of Paul's preaching in this particular Sabbath,” &c.-(Edward Sampson Tead). instance, let us go on to examine the aim of
THE APOSTLES TURNING TO THE this discourse. We notice the massing to
GENTILES. gether of certain facts in the history of Israel, and at the point in the sermon where our
Acts xiii. 44-xiv. 7. lesson begins he was bringing forward events The controlling thought in this passage is in the life of Jesus. The death and resurrec- that of opposition to Christian effort. tion of the Lord were both emphasized with 1. Such opposition is natural. Christianity great force—a few distinctive particulars of necessarily causes divisions. “I came not to send peace, but a sword,” said Christ. Chris- II. Opposition is helpful. Opposition attianity opposes the habits and beliefs of sinful tracts attention to Christian effort. Besides, man. It undertakes to reform society by
opposition is an admirable influence in showing
men where they stand, and whether or not correcting the evils of the past and leading they are followers of God. We can float on men to a new and higher life. It is then by the popular current, especially when it is nature an iconoclast. It condemns the caste strong and full, and be well content with of the Hindus, the polygamy of the Indians,
ourselves. The test comes when the in
fluence is against us. After the tide turns the taboo of the Sandwich Islanders, the
the other way, have we still strength to fetish of the Africans, the ancestral worship
press straight on? Opposition is often a of the Chinese, the money-loving of the revelation of character. So when the syna. Anglo-Saxons. It strikes straight for re- gogue at Antioch in Pisidia was filled with form. It is determined to control, and it
Greeks, and Paul was explaining to them allows no compromises. “Ye cannot serve
the gracious truths of salvation, it was then
that the Jews showed their true character. God and mammon.” This is why Christianity But opposition to Christian effort is not only has met with such bitter persecution from a revelation of character, it is a development so many different religions. Other religions of character. It is often a grand thing for a were willing to let it live, provided it would
man that he does not find his way through
life an easy one. Great authors, like Homer let them alone. The Gospel opposes selfish
and Milton, were blind, or, like Johnson and ness. It forbids men to spend their lives in
Goldsmith, contended with poverty. Great seeking their own pleasure. Much more, the inventors, like Palissy the potter, and Goodfaithful proclamation of the truths of Chris- year, who perfected the manufacture of Indiatianity excites opposition from the proud.
rubber. struggled with adversity. Great Pride may not lead to positive persecution
explorers, like Livingstone and Stanley, in
crossing unknown continents, endured the as certainly as selfishness does, but it is even
very horrors of death. Great statesmen, like more likely to stiffen one in opposition to the Webster, Gartield, Lincoln, have fought their truth. In the case before us the Jews were way up from a low station. The same law made angry by the presence of Gentiles in
holds in religious matters. In order to purity their synagogues. They were not accustomed
among Christians, to consecration, to sincerity
and devotion, to the highest types of heroism, to such things in Antioch. But here was a
a flavour of persecution is an excellent thing. new preacher. He had some startling things The Church of to-day is too comfortable for to say. He gave encouragement of salvation its highest development and the best results to others besides the Jews. Great interest was
of effort. excited. The Jews did not like it at all.
III. How opposition should be met. The
Apostles faced it with boldness. Opposition is A similar pride to-day often hinders the
not to be feared. To be sure it is not to be needacceptance of the Gospel or its faithful pro- lessly excited. We make a great mistake when clamation. In fact, the forms of pride which we are willing to yield principle or conceal the are likely to oppose the truth are innumerable. truth to secure peace.
There is always a 1. There is the pride of opinion. It existed in tendency towards such a policy. Our desire these Grecian cities of Asia Minor. It is to be charitable inclines us to it. No! the hard to confess that one has been mistaken, course which God commends is straightand when Christianity declares to a man that forward. But after there has been faithful he has been in the wrong, and has been trust- effort to plant the good seed, it is entirely ing to that which cannot help him, he is legitimate to cease effort that does not bring likely to be indignant rather than thankful results and to seek more fertile soil. “It was for the warning. 2. Then there is pride of necessary,” said Paul and Barnabas, with position. Those who opposed Paul were startling plainness, “that the word of God
women of honourable estate, and the chief should first be spoken to you. Seeing ye men of the city." "Not inany wise after thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unthe flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, worthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the are called."
3. And then there is pride of Gentiles." reputation. Who can bear to acknowledge IV. Opposition is sure to be overcome. himself to be overrated? Who likes to stand Large results followed the efforts of Barnabas up before men and say, “My life has been a and Paul, even though they did meet serious mistake?” 4. So, too, there is pride of inde- difficulties in their labours. Opposition is pendence. One who has all his life had overcome by the Divine presence and aid. It charge of his own affairs and made a success is said in this passage that the disciples were of theni, how can he bring himself in matters filled with the Holy Ghost. One thing more. of religion to abandon his self-reliance and to It is possible, in spite of difficulties, to be put himself, a helpless dependent, into the filled with joy. This was the case with the hands of Christ?
disciples at Antioch.-(A. P. Foster.)
THE SURVEY OF THOUGHT.
ASSYRIOLOGY AND THE OLD TESTAMENT.—The distinguished German Assyriologist, Dr. Hugo Winckler, has just issued a collection of studies and short notes on Old Testament history and difficult passages in the Hebrew Scriptures under the title, Old Testament Investigations, which contains, amidst a mass of novel opinions and daring emendations of the text, some suggestions which are well worthy of the consideration of students. Some of them have little to do with the cuneiform inscriptions, and therefore need not be mentioned in this notice ; but others are mainly based on their evidence, and to a few of these we desire briefly to call attention. (1) “ The land of the rustling of wings which is beyond the rivers of Cush” (Isa. xviii. 1, margin of R. V.), which is usually believed to be a country in Africa, is identified with South Babylonia, or Chaldea, the supposition that, in this passage, the Hebrew “Cush"
” corresponds to the Cassu (or Cassites) of the cuneiform inscriptions, who constituted an important element in the Babylonian population. This identification is supported by the contention that “the rivers of Cush” is an expression which could be used with propriety of Babylonia, with its many natural and artificial streams, but not of the African Cush, which had only one river, the Nile. “ The vessels of papyrus (or “ reed ') ” may be the round boats of reed which are still in use on the Euphrates.
6. The sea," it is argued, is the sea literally, and not a large river. (2) In the very obscure passage, Jer. xv. 11, &c., it is suggested that, instead of jib yo brod Son, which, with needless vehemence, is pronounced nonsense, we ought to read, 1198, “iron of Baal-Zephon,” that place situated in Anti-Lebanon, being mentioned in the Annals of Sargon as a mining district. In the following clause, 75on, the first word of verse 13 is connected (after the LXX.) with the preceding verse, and is treated as a proper name—"and brass of Chilak.” Chilak is supposed to be Chalcis, to the west of Damascus, also in the AntiLebanon. (3) The statement in 2 Kings vii. 6, that the panic-stricken Syrians supposed that the king of Israel had hired against them the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians, is very startling in the light of recent research. Dr. Winckler proposes to remove the difficulty in a very ingenious and plausible way. The Assyrian equivalents for Diya are“ Mutsri” and • Mitsri." But Mutsri has sometimes another signification.
In some passages it describes a state in Northern Syria and the neighbourhood. In the time of Shalmaneser II., that is, in the very period to which this narrative refers, it was a comparatively small kingdom near Cilicia. Is it not possible, or even probable, that the Hebrew O'ns in this passage refers to the Syrian Mutsri, and not to that in Africa ? On the former supposition there is
NO. VI.-VOL. II.—THE THINKER.
nothing remarkable in the mention of the Hittites in this connection. Both the peoples (the Mutsri and the Hittim) dwelt in Northern Syria, and both were vassals of Damascus, who were probably ever ready to throw off their allegiance. Dr. Winckler adds that this Syrian Mutsri may be referred to also in the passage about Solomon's purchase of horses (1 Kings x. 28). The Asiatic Mutsri was more likely than the African to be able to export horses in considerable quantities. (4) In discussing the chronology of the Old Testament, Dr. Winckler points out that there were two methods of marking time current among the Babylonians. In the earlier ages they indicated in a general way the time of an occurrence by connecting it with some other event, such as the conquest of a certain city, or the dedication of a throne. In later ages they employed the far more serviceable plan of naming the year of a monarch's reign. The former of these methods is clearly shown to have been in use amongst the ancient Hebrews. One example is cited from Amos : "two years before the earthquake" (i. 1); and as many as three examples are given from Isaiah : “In the year when king Uzziah died ” (vi. 1); “In the year when king Ahaz died " (xiv. 28); and, “In the year that Tartan went against Ashdod" (xx. 1). When, however, he maintains that this was the only method in use before the Exile, and that the Jewish writers of history learnt the later and better plan from their closer connection with Babylonia, Dr. Winckler goes beyond the evidence adduced.
SOUND DOCTRINE. By Rev. DONALD FRASER, D.D. (Publication Committee of the Presbyterian Church of England.)—In May, 1890, the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of England adopted unanimously a series of articles, twenty-four in number, which had been carefully prepared to express the living belief of the Church on fundamental points of Christian doctrine. These articles are believed by those who compiled them to be in substantial accord both with the teaching of the Westminster Standards accepted in that Church, and also with the general system of doctrine which finds expression in the Reformed Confessions drawn up in the course of the sixteenth century. On some doctrines, such as the Trinity and the Person of Christ, they claim to be in harmony with the Ecumenical Councils of the ancient undivided Church in the East and West. In their views of sin and grace they are frankly Augustinian. These articles, together with a commentary upon them by the late Dr. Fraser, have been published in a small book bearing the above title. In the Introduction Dr. Fraser gives a spirited defence of “ dogma," against which we are accustomed to hear so many protests. “ Most of the tirades,” he says, “which we hear against creeds and confessions are mere outcries against definiteness in theological convictions. Is it to be gravely maintained that, in religion, nothing is ever to be discovered or known as certainly true, or that a thing so discovered and known may not be set down in words, lest it should forestall further and independent inquiry? If there be anything in theology at all, it is worthy of study; and in this, as in other branches of knowledge, students ought to help each other; but how