תמונות בעמוד

their feet, and turning their steps to Iconium, a city of Lycaonia, where a church was organized. Here the apostles tarried some time, until forced to leave by the orthodox Jews, who stirred up the heathen population against them. The little city of Lystra was the scene of their next labors, and as there were but few Jews there the missionaries not only had rest, but were very successful.

The sojourn at Lystra was marked by the miraculous cure of a cripple, which so impressed the people that they took the missionaries for divinities, calling Barnabas Jupiter, and Paul Mercury; and a priest of the city absolutely would have offered up sacrifices to the supposed deities, had he not been severely rebuked by Paul for his superstition.

At Lystra a great addition was made to the Christian ranks by the conversion of Timothy, a youth of fifteen, and of his excellent mother Eunice; but the report of these conversions reached Iconium and Antioch of Pisidia, which so enraged the Jews of these cities that they sent emissaries to Lystra, zealous fanatics, who made such a disturbance that Paul was stoned, and left for dead. His wounds, however, were not so serious as were supposed, and the next day he departed with Barnabas for Derbe, where he made a long stay. The two churches of Lystra and Derbe were composed almost wholly of heathen.

From Derbe the apostles retraced their steps, A. D. 46, to Antioch, by the way they had come, -- a journey of one hundred and twenty miles, and full of perils, — instead of crossing Mount Taurus through the famous pass of the Cilician Gates, and then through Tarsus to Antioch, an easier journey.

One of the noticeable things which marked this first missionary journey of Paul, was the opposition of the Jews wherever he went. He was forced to turn to the Gentiles, and it was among them that converts were chiefly made. It is true that his custom was first to address the Jewish synagogues on Saturday, but the Jews opposed and hated and persecuted him the moment he announced the grand principle which animated his life, — salvation through Jesus Christ, instead of through obedience to the venerated Law of Moses.

On his return to Antioch with his beloved companion, Paul continued for a time in the peaceful ministration of apostolic duties, until it became necessary for him to go to Jerusalem to consult with the other apostles in reference to a controversy which began seriously to threaten the welfare of their common cause. This controversy was in reference to the rite of circumcision, – a rite ever held in supreme importance by the Jews. The Jewish converts to Christianity had all been previously circumcised according to the Mosaic Law, and they insisted on the circumcision of the Gentile converts also, as a mark of Christian fraternity. Paul, emancipated from Jewish prejudices and customs, regarded this rite as unessential; he believed that it was abrogated by Christ, with other technical observances of the Law, and that it was not consistent with the liberty of the Gospel to impose rites exclusively Jewish on the Pagan converts. The elders at Jerusalem, good men as they were, did not take this view; they could not bear to receive into complete Christian fellowship men who offended their prejudices in regard to matters which they regarded as sacred and obligatory as baptism itself. They would measure Christianity by their traditions ; and the smaller the point of difference seemed to the enlightened Paul, the bitterer were the contests, - even as many of the schisms which subsequently divided the Church originated in questions that appear to us to be absolutely frivolous. The question very early arose, whether Christianity should be a formal and ritualistic religion, — a religion of ablutions and purifications, of distinctions between ceremonially pure and impure things, — or, rather, a religion of the spirit; whether it should be a sect or a universal religion. Paul took the latter view ; declared circumcision to be useless, and freely admitted heathen converts into the Church without it, in opposition to those who virtually insisted

on a Gentile becoming a Jew before he could become a Christian.

So, to settle this miserable dispute, Paul went to Jerusalem, taking with him Barnabas and Titus, who had never been circumcised, — eighteen years after the death of Jesus, when the apostles were old men, and when Peter, James, and John, having remained at Jerusalem, were the real leaders of the Jewish Church. James in particular, called the Just, was a strenuous observer of the law of circumcision, - a severe and ascetic man, and very narrow in his prejudices, but held in great veneration for his piety. Before the question was brought up in a general assembly of the brethren for discussion, Paul separately visited Peter, James, and John, and argued with them in his broad and catholic spirit, and won them over to his cause ; so that through their influence it was decided that it was not essential for a Gentile to be circumcised on admission to the Church, only that he must abstain from meats offered to idols, and froin eating the meat of any animal containing the blood (forbidden by Moses), — a sort of compromise, a measure by which most quarrels are finally settled ; and the title of Paul as “ Apostle to the Gentiles” was officially confirmed.

The controversy being settled amicably by the leaders of the infant Church, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, and for a while longer continued

their labors there, as the most important centre of missionary operations. But the ardent soul of Paul could not bear repose. He set about forming new plans; and the result was his second and more important missionary tour.

The relations between Paul and Barnabas had been thus far of the most intimate and affectionate kind. But now the two apostles disagreed, — Barnabas wishing to associate with them his cousin Mark, and Paul determining that the young man, however estimable, should not accompany them, because he had turned back on the former journey. It must be confessed that Paul was not very amiable and conciliatory in this matter; but his nature was earnest and stern, and he was resolved not to have a companion under his trying circumstances who had once put his hand to the plough and looked back. Neither apostle would yield, and they were obliged to separate, — reluctantly, doubtless, — Paul choosing Silas as his future companion, while Barnabas took Mark. Both were probably in the right, and both in the wrong; for the best of men have faults, and the strongest characters the most. Perhaps Paul thought that as he was now recognized as the leading apostle to the Gentiles, Barnabas should yield to him; and perhaps Barnabas felt aggrieved at the haughty dictation of one who was once his inferior in standing.

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