SAUL BROUGHT TO ANTIOCH.
Buried talent called forth to its appropriate field of labour.
Saul's journey to Arabia not recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.—Its effect on the disciples at Jerusalem.—Saul's reception by Barnabas.— Saul numbered with the apostles.—In danger from the Grecians.—Sent to Tarsus.—Sought by Barnabas.—Occasion of his call to Antioch.—The gosDel not for Jews only.—The gospel successfully preached to Greeks. — The name "Christian" first used.—The field of labour open; Antioch; and the world.—General arrangements for calling forth talent. —Talent existing in various forms.—Talent a creation, not a developement.— Talent conferred as it is needed.—Talent adapted to the demand for it . —Scope for the exercise of talent.—Emergencies arise to call it forth.
"Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: and when he had found him he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch."
Acts xi. 25, 26.
WE have seen that Saul of Tarsus, after he had spent sufficient time in Damascus to show the reality of his conversion, and to proclaim there the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, retired before the opposition of the Jews, and went into Arabia, where he spent three years.
On his return to Jerusalem it is said of him that "he assayed to join himself to the disciples;" that is, he sought to be recognized as a follower of the Saviour; but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple (Acts ix. 26). They remembered him as a Jew; as a most devoted, zealous, and bigoted Pharisee. They feared that there had been some deception about the report of his conversion, and were slow to believe that a man who had been so infuriated, and who had done so much to destroy the Church, had become a sincere disciple of Jesus.
It is a very remarkable fact that the journey into Arabia is not referred to by Luke, in his account of Paul in the Acts of the Apostles. From the narrative there, (Acts ix. 19—26), the inference might be that Saul had gone at once from Damascus to Jerusalem; and that his assaying to join himself to the disciples had occurred very soon after his conversion. And it might seem probable, also, if so long an interval as three years had occurred between his conversion and his going to Jerusalem, that the sacred historian would not have passed it over in silence.
The enemies of Christianity have not failed to urge this as an instance of an irreconcilable contradiction between the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistle to the Galatians. But, in reply to this, it may be said, that (apart from the general fact that any historian, however minute and accurate his account may be, must pass over many facts, which may be in themselves important, and which might be mentioned by others), the account in Luke, as it is, is best explained by the supposition that such a journey did take place, and indeed is not easily explained except on such a supposition, (a.) If there had been no such interval,—if Saul had gone up to Jerusalem immediately after his conversion, and after the zeal which he had shown in Damascus in preaching Christ as the Messiah,—it is morally certain that the disciples would have welcomed him at once, and without suspicion. In Damascus he had given all the evidence which could be desired of the reality of his conversion. He had abandoned the purpose for which he had gone there. He had engaged in the work of preaching the Gospel. He had done this with all the ardour which was characteristic of the man, and with so much zeal as to arouse the wrath of the Jews residing there (Acts ix. 22). All this must have been known to the Christians at Jerusalem ; and had he come at once among them, it cannot be supposed that their fears would have been excited, or that they would have had any suspicion about the sincerity of his conversion, (b.) But on the supposition that he had been absent "three years" in Arabia, all this might be changed, and that very fact might lead to suspicion and apprehension in regard to him. In that long time the freshness of the impression produced by his conversion would have passed away. The very fact of his absence, of his silence, of his doing nothing (so far as known) in the cause of Christianity, might have prepared their minds for suspicion and doubt. Where had he been? What had been his employment? Why had he so soon ceased to defend the cause of Christianity, and so soon withdrawn from public view? Why had he not come at once to Jerusalem? and there, in the very centre of opposition to Christianity, and on the very spot where the Messiah had been put to death, why had he not stood up as a new witness for that Saviour who was said to have appeared to him on the way to Damascus? How natural—how almost unavoidable— on the supposition that he had gone to Arabia, and had been there for three long years, would be the impression that he had lost his interest in the cause of Christianity; that he had ceased to be a professed disciple; that he had returned to his former faith; and that now, in seeking to unite himself with them, there must be some sinister motive, and that his coming among them might be regarded as the act of an insidious and dangerous enemy.
These considerations may, perhaps, show that the fact of Luke's not mentioning the journey into Arabia, is so far from being an objection to the truth of his narrative, that the supposition of Paul's having gone there is necessary to an explanation of the facts which the historian has stated,—or that what he has stated would not have been so likely to have taken place, if there had been no such journey. If it is so, then this may be regarded as one of what Paley calls "undesigned coincidences," showing that the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistle to the Galatians are both genuine. An impostor—a fabricator—would not have thought of such a device. Such things occur only in real history; not in attempts to impose on the world.
The difficulty to which I have now adverted in regard to the reception of Saul by the disciples at Jerusalem, was met by Barnabas. He, somehow, and from some cause not explained, had formed a strong attachment for Saul. Possibly he may have been informed of the fact that Saul had gone into Arabia, and of the manner in which he had spent those three years of absence. With the fullest confidence in his character, he "brought him to the Apostles, and declared unto them," that is, reminded them, "how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached . boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus" fActs ix. 27). He dwelt on this as fully proving the reality of his conversion; and showed them that there could be no just ground of suspicion respecting his future career. They were satisfied, and received him as one of their number.
But here a new difficulty arose, and Saul was again in danger. "He spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him" (Acts ix. 29). These Grecians— Hellenists ('EAX»|vt(TTac)—foreign proselytes—probably held some opinions which Saul regarded as dangerous, and which he felt himself bound to oppose; and the result was, as often happened to him afterwards from similar causes, that his life was in danger. To secure his safety, and perhaps also to introduce him to a field of labour where it might be hoped he would be most successful, it was resolved to send him to Tarsus.
How he was employed in Tarsus, we have no means of ascertaining. It was the home of his childhood; it was a place where he would be surrounded by the friends of his early years, by the members of his own family; a place where he might come in contact with distinguished Pagan philosophers and men of learning.1 We cannot well doubt that the young convert would seek to bring the claims of Christianity before as many of these sages as possible; we cannot doubt that in the
synagogue there, as he afterwards did elsewhere, he would urge the proofs that Jesus was the Messiah; nor can we doubt that his labours there would be attended with some measure of success.1
But he was in obscurity. His talent there was comparatively buried talent. He was endowed alike by native talent, by his education, and by the grace imparted to him at his conversion, for a far larger sphere; and he had been called to the apostleship that he might occupy a wider field. The time had come when he was to be called forth to the great business of his life. A "work of grace" had commenced in Antioch, the capital of Syria, a city second in importance to none in the East, and in its position and influence second only to Rome. So much importance had this work assumed in the view of the Apostles at Jerusalem, that Barnabas, one of their most valued fellow-labourers, had been sent there. So extensive was the field of labour in Antioch, so much need was there of additional help, and so deeply did Barnabas himself feel the necessity of counsel in this great undertaking, that, calling to mind the eminent gifts of his friend, Saul of Tarsus, he resolved to call him to his aid. The work required one like Saul of Tarsus, and would be ample for the employment of all his special qualifications for the ministry. In our age a telegraphic despatch would have sum
1 "In his own family, we may well imagine that some of those Christian "kinsmen " whose names are handed down to us (Rom. xvi.)—possibly his sister, the playmate of his childhood, and his sister's son, who afterwards saved his life (Acts xxiii. 16—22)—were at this time, by his exertions, gathered into the fold of Christ."—Conybcarc and Howson, ut sup.
moned him to Antioch at once; but in a difficult and dangerous journey, Barnabas himself had to go and find him: "Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus for to seek Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch."
The theme, then, before us, as will be seen by this explanation of the circumstances of the case, is THE CALLING OF THIS OBSCURE AND BURIED TALENT INTO A WIDER AND MORE APPROPRIATE FIELD OF LABOUR AND USEFULNESS,—THE FIELD OF LABOUR NOW OPENED BY THE NEW EMERGENCY IN THE CHURCH AND BY THE ENLARGED VIEWS OF THE NATURE AND DESIGN OF THE NEW RELIGION. The point of general interest to which we shall be led by the facts here adverted to in the case of Saul of Tarsus, will relate to the arrangements by which God prepares talent for wide and useful employment, and the methods by which that talent is called forth to accomplish His designs. In illustrating this, I would notice—
I. The emergency or occasion which had then occurred in the Christian Church. And here we may observe three things:
(1.) The ideas of Christians up to that time had been limited. It was a slow process by which the attention of the apostles and other Christians was directed to the regions beyond Palestine, and even when their thoughts were directed to other lands, it was rather to the scattered Hebrews than to the heathen; to the synagogue, rather than to the " Porch," the "Lyceum," the "Academy," or the Pagan temple of worship.1 Their affections clustered and lingered around Palestine—the land of their fathers, the seat of the national religion; their remembrances were of the Hebrew people as the "covenant" people of God; they met everywhere, in their views as derived from the ancient religion, the barriers which had been set up between the Hebrews and other nations. Slowly were their early Jewish prejudices overcome; slowly did they learn the lessons
1 "Hitherto the history of the Christian Church has been confined within Jewish limits. ... If any traveller from a distant country has been admitted into the community of believers, the place of his baptism has not been more remote than the 'desert' of Gaza.- If any 'aliens from the commonwealth of Israel' have been admitted to the citizenship of the spiritual Israelites, they have been 'strangers' who dwell among the hills of Samaria. But the time is rapidly approaching when the knowledge of Christ must spread more rapidly,—when those who possessed not that Book, which caused perplexity on the road to Ethiopia, will hear and adore His name,—and greater strangers than those who drew water from the well of Sychar will come nigh to the Fountain of Life. The same dispersion which gathered in the Samaritans, will gather in the Gentiles also. The 'middle wall of partition ' being utterly broken down, all will be called by the new and glorious name of ' Christian.'
"And as we follow the progress of events, and find that all movements in the Church begin to have more and more reference to the heathen, we observe that these movements begin to circulate more and more round a new centre of activity. Not Jerusalem, but Antioch, not the Holy City of God's ancient people, but the profane city of the Greeks and Romans, is the place to which the student of sacred history is now directed. During the remainder of the Acts of the Apostles our. attention is at least divided between Jerusalem and Antioch, until at last, after following St. Paul's many journeys, we come with him to Rome. For some time Constantinople must remain a city of the future; but we are more than once reminded of the greatness of Alexandria; and thus even in the life of the apostle we find prophetic intimations of four of the five great centres of the early Catholic Church."—Conybeareand Hcnuson, vol. i. p. 106.
which God meant to teach them by the things which were occurring. \
(2.) The events which had now taken place at Antioch could not well be mistaken in their meaning, as bearing on this point. The Gospel had been preached there with great power and success. It had been attended with the same results which had been produced when it was proclaimed in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. What was particularly remarkable was, that while those who "were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen," though they went to "Phenice [Phenicia], and Cyprus, and Antioch" preached "to none but unto the Jews only" (Acts xi. 19), men from other places—" Cyprus, and Cyrene" (in distant Africa) —preached also, and preached to the "Grecians"— jrpoc TobQ 'EAAjjv4<rrae—so that "a great number believed, and turned to the Lord" (Acts xi. 20, 21). This to the Church was a new idea. The Gospel was to be preached beyond the bounds of Palestine. It was to be preached by those who had not gone from Palestine. It was to be preached to those who were not of Hebrew descent. The Gospel was securing a firm hold on a large Pagan city—one of the great capitals of the world. It, therefore, was not to be confined to Judaea or the Jews, but was to extend to every land; to embrace all people. Henceforward this was to become a fixed idea in all their conceptions of the nature of Christianity; in all their views of the Church; in all their doctrines of Christian fellowship; in all their plans for spreading their religion.
(3.) The name by which they would be called was to be the name Christian,—a name given for the first time at Antioch; a name conferred and adopted just as this enlarged view of the nature of their religion was becoming the common view of the Church; a name more expressive and significant under this new view of their religion than any other could have been.
Its origin is not known. On this point I may be allowed to give the following extract:—" It is not likely that they received this name from the Jews. The 'children of Abraham' employed a term much more expressive of hatred and contempt. They called them 'the sect of the Nazarenes.' These disciples of Jesus traced their origin to Nazareth in Galilee; and it was a proverb, that nothing good could come from Nazareth. Besides this, there was a further reason why the Jews would not have called the disciples of Jesus by the name of 'Christians.' The word 'Christ' has the same meaning with 'Messiah.' And the Jews, however blinded and prejudiced on this subject, would never have used so sacred a word to point an expression of mockery and derision; and they could not have used it in grave and serious earnest, to designate those whom they held to be the followers of a false Messiah, a fictitious Christ. Nor is it likely that the 'Christians' gave this name to themselves. In the Acts of the Apostles, and in their own letters, we find them designating themselves as 'brethren,' 'disciples,' 'believers,' 'saints.' Only in two places (Acts xxvi. 28; 1 Peter iv. 16), do we find the term ' Christians;' and in both instances it is implied to be a term used by those who are without. There is little doubt that the name originated with the Gentiles, who began now to see that this new sect was so far distinct from the Jews, that they might naturally receive a new designation. And the form of the word implies that it came from the Romans, not from the Greeks. The word 'Christ' was often in the conversation of the believers, as we know it to have been constantly in their letters. 'Christ' was the title of Him whom they avowed as their leader and their chief. They confessed that this Christ had been crucified, but they asserted that He was risen from the dead, and that He guided them by His invisible power. Thus 'Christian' was the name which naturally found its place in the reproachful language of their enemies. In the first instance we have every reason to believe that it was a term of ridicule and derision. And it is remarkable that the people of Antioch were notorious for inventing names of derision, and for turning their wit into the channels of ridicule."1
The name "Christian" was well fitted to be the name of the followers of the Redeemer in all ages, and in all lands,—binding all in one, and becoming a common appellation by which they would be known and recognized in all parts of the world. As the idea had at length sprung up in the Church, and was now spreading, that the religion of the Saviour was designed to be universal as well as perpetual, so this name was appro
1 Conybeare and Howson, vol. i. pp. 116, 117.
priate to that idea, and would serve to keep it up in all future times. The name was not Jewish in its nature; it had nothing local; it sprang from no national peculiarity; it indicated nothing in regard to tribes, clans, languages, complexions, or to the peculiar laws or customs of any people; it indicated only a relation to Christ—a relation to be sustained alike and equally by all, in all lands and in all ages, who would be brought to believe on Him. It was, therefore, a name in which the appellation Jew or Greek,—European, Asiatic, or African,—Caucasian, Mongolian, or Ethiopian,—nay, in which the then unknown names American, Hawaiian, Australian, might be ultimately lost,—the higher appellation of Chr1st1an uniting the whole world in one great brotherhood. In speaking of human beings, the names man and Christian are those only which express universality. The first regards the race as one; the other, as redeemed. All 'other names are local; all others tend to divide, not to unite nations; all others are more or less at the foundation of rival interests, of alienation, of war, of conquest. The names man and Christian alone lie at the foundation of universal love, concord, equal rights, and peace.
II. The ample field, on which the talents of Saul, now summoned from obscurity, might act. That field was, first, Antioch itself, as a point of influence in the world; and second, the whole world, as now open to his efforts.
(1.) Antioch itself. Antioch was one of the most prominent points of influence then existing among the nations. Babylon and Nineveh had lost their importance; Constantinople had not yet been founded; Paris and London were merely a collection of huts. Jerusalem, Alexandria, Ephesus, Antioch, Athens, Corinth, Philippi, Rome—these were the centres of influence and power ;—Rome the centre, and all these subordinate to that. A founder or a defender of a new religion, who sought the widest sphere for propagating it, would direct his attention to those first-named cities, with the purpose, sooner or later, of reaching the imperial city— the capital of all.
Antioch, the capital of Syria, by its situation, its wealth, its commerce, its accessibility, its communication with the other parts of the world, its numbers, and the fact that, for purposes of commerce, there were multitudes gathered there from every other part of the world, was one of the most important centres of influence; and we may readily understand, therefore, why he was called, by the Providence of God, to labour in that city.1
1 "Antioch and Alexandria had become the metropolitan centres of
commercial and civilized life in the East Their histories are no
unimportant chapters in the history of the world. Both of them were connected with St. Paul : one indirectly, as the birthplace of Apollos; the other directly, as the scene of some of the most important passages of the apostle's own life. Both abounded in Jews from their first foundation. Both became the residences of Roman governors, and both were patriarchates of the primitive Church. But before they had received either the Roman discipline or the Christian doctrine, they had served their appointed ourpose of spreading the Greek language and habits, of creating new lines o( commercial intercourse by land and sea, and o1 centralising in themselves the mercantile life of the Levant. Even the Acts of the Apostles remind
(2.) The world itself would be suggested as a field of Christian effort, for which Saul was especially qualified, and which, in his call to the apostolic office, he had been designated to occupy. The new idea which had been started, and which led to the propagation of Christianity beyond the bounds of Judaea at all, was one which could not be confined in its operations to Antioch. It was too large and comprehensive to be hemmed in by so narrow limits; for the principles which made it proper to preach the Gospel in A ntioch, and to those who were not Jews, made it proper to preach it everywhere, and to all people. The events now occurring in that heathen capital could not but suggest to a mind like that of Saul, the fact that the whole world was to be visited by like influences of the Spirit of God.
Thus were his great talents called forth and placed in the field which from the beginning it had been determined that he should occupy. Thus, too, was furnished one illustrious instance of the manner in which God qualifies particular men for some great work to be
us of the traffic of Antioch with Cyprus and the neighbouring coasts, and of the sailing of Alexandrian corn-ships to the more distant harbours of Malta and Puteoli. Of all the Greek elements which the cities of Antioch and Alexandria were the means of circulating, the spread of the language is the most important. Its connection with the whole system of Christian doctrine—with many of the controversies and divisions of the Church—is very momentous. That language, which is the richest and most delicate that the world has seen, became the language of theology. The Greek tongue became to the Christian more than it had been to the Roman or the Jew."—Conybcare and Howson, vol. L pp. 9, 10.
For a full description of Antioch, see Ibid, vol. i. pp. 118—122.
performed, and of the manner in which, in due time, talent is called from obscurity.
III. We may notice, as a great general truth in the progress of the world, the arrangements for calling talent forth to accomplish the Divine purposes. On this subject, the following remarks may be made:—
(1.) The talent which exists at any one time in the world, is found in one of these forms: (a.) Talent in preparation for the future; (b.) Talent in obscurity, or not called forth; (c.) Talent employed in a purpose corresponding to the design for which it was created; (d.) Talent perverted and abused. These forms may exist separately, or two of them may be combined. Thus talent in preparation, and as yet in obscurity, may be combined, for the occasion may not yet have arisen to call it forth. We have no reason to doubt that while Saul was in Arabia, and while he was in Tarsus,,—in both cases in comparative obscurity,—he was actually preparing for the great work to which his life was to be devoted.
(2.) There is talent created in each age of the world, for all the purposes of that age. It is brought into being by God's power. It is not developed from the past; it is not the production of the mere laws of nature; it is not derived from any quality in the parents or the ancestry of those thus endowed; it is as much a new creation as would be the introduction of a new world into the system of worlds already made. There was nothing in the little village of Stratford-on-Avon that could pro
duce the mind of Shakespeare; nor was there anything in the -mind of his father, the "glover" and "furrier" residing there, of which "Lear," and "Hamlet," and "Othello," could be regarded as the developement. The mind of Shakespeare was as really an act of creation as the creation of a world. There was nothing in the birthplace of Cardinal Wolsey, or in the character of the butcher his father, of which his great genius could be considered as the developement. So with Johnson, Milton, Addison, Cowper, Burns, Michael Angelo, West, Fulton. These minds were made of such capacity, such power, such adaptedness to a particular end, as God pleased; and were brought upon the earth at such a time, and in such circumstances, as He saw best. There is a difference, in this respect, between the arrangements which God has made for the physical wants of the world, and for its mental and moral wants. In the former case, long before man was upon the earth, in the very beginning, He had created, and had deposited in the earth, all the gold and silver, the iron and the lead, that the race which was to be made would need in all its history,—not to be created anew, as it might be required—and not to be exhausted. Mind, on the contrary, He brings upon the earth as it is wanted,—creating from age to age, as those which have acted their parts are removed, new minds to carry forward the great purposes which have to be accomplished.
Mind, thus created, is designed to meet the wants of a particular age. At every period there is a class of minds needed to carry the world forward in its ordinary course,—in the regular developement of things; in working the fields already cultivated; in finishing the roads, canals, and houses already begun; in maintaining the institutions of learning and of charity which have been already founded; and in gathering up and transmitting to future times the results of observation and experience in that generation. As, however, the most marked advances which the world makes are not by a steady and easy ascent, but rather per saltum—by being suddenly raised from a low level to a higher steppe, plateau, or elevation, along which it is to move, until some new occasion shall arrive to elevate the race to a higher level still,—so (when the time arrives for such a new elevation) God creates the mind or minds fitted to the occasion. Thus some great law-giver appears; some splendid genius in poetry or painting; some man endowed with eminent military talents; some patient, plodding student; some profound philosopher. Such men as Moses—Solon—Lycurgus—lay the foundation for new epochs, and such "epochs" really constitute the history of the progress of the world.
(3.) Under this arrangement, much talent may be obscure and hidden; much may be in a state of almost unconscious preparation for the part which it is to act. How little did Washington dream, amid the quiet scenes at Mount Vernon, of the great things which he was really preparing to accomplish! how little did Oliver Cromwell, on his farm, dream of the great part which he was to act in the history of the world! The emergency came. There was enough for those great men to do, and God had endowed them with talent sufficient to do all that was needful to be accomplished in their age.
(4,) Emergencies do arise to call forth the talent which God has conferred. When liberty is endangered, when a country is invaded, when a new mode of government is to be instituted, when reforms are to be effected, when the world is prepared for some new and signal advance, then talent before hidden and unknown, but in a state of ample preparation, is brought forward to do its work. Such—in a more eminent degree than aught else (and indeed in a degree so eminent and so sacred as to make it seem almost profane even to allude to it at all, in the way of comparison with the ordinary progress of human affairs)—was the period when, after so long a preparation, and when "the fulness of the time was come," the Son of God was called from His obscurity in darkened Galilee, and by the descent of the Holy Ghost was solemnly consecrated to His work as the Messiah; for then the affairs of the whole world were to be put on a new footing, and the race was to be raised to a permanently higher level. Such also,—subordinate to that higher purpose, but still so marked in its character as to constitute a new epoch in the world's history,—was the fact which we have been contemplating, the calling forth of Saul of Tarsus from his obscurity to act his part on the great theatre of human affairs.