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But there are also here many lessons to ministers, as to the right discharge of their office, after they are duly appointed to it. For example, they are here taught that the great end of their ministry is "to preach the kingdom of God"-to preach the gospel, in all the light and fulness of the dispensation of the Spirit, calling their hearers to the exercise of repentance towards God, and faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ. They have not, indeed, the miraculous gifts of healing and exorcising; but they are to direct the spiritually sick to Jesus, the physician of souls, and to labour to deliver men from the spiritual bondage of sin and Satan. They are entitled, it is true, to be properly provided for: but they are here taught carefully to avoid a mercenary spirit and to trust in the Lord, that his providence and his people will take care of them, when they are employed in his service. While their commission extends to all, even to the chief of sinners, they may here learn to expect their first success with those who are already so far impressed as to be, at least, favourably disposed towards them-and also to desire to be fortified by the countenance of those who are of good report in the place where they are labouring. If they faithfully declare the truth, they may expect some success. In cases, however, which, alas! always occur, of persons who will not give heed, they are here taught faithfully and plainly, to warn them of their danger, and to testify against them, not only in words, but by such actions as may be natural and proper, according to the ideas and customs of the country. Though it is now very rarely to be even imitated, I have heard of the significant action here enjoined by our Lord, being once literally adopted with some good effect. The minister of a country parish, being much grieved by the ungodliness and obstinacy of one of his parishioners, who was a householder, and having repeatedly spoken to him in vain, resolved to call on him, at his house, once more, and to speak to him for the last time. He did so; and without making any impression on him. But, as he was rising to leave the house, he said to him, "Well, I can say no more; therefore, I will now shake off the dust of my feet, as a testimony against you." Accordingly, when he came to the threshold of the outer door, he twice or thrice struck first one of his feet against the door-post, and then the other; and, without saying another word, departed. The emblematic action effected what words could not effect; for it
struck the man deeply, on reflection. His conscience was awakened, at least for a time; but I did not learn if the impression was permanent.
We observe, secondly, that as this account of the mission of the apostles is instructive to ministers, so it is also instructive to the people. It reminds them, for example, of the duty of providing for their ministers. While ministers are not to be mercenary, the people, or those who administer for the people, are not to be unkind. They who waited at the altar, were partakers with the altar. "Even so hath the Lord ordained, that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel." Especially, this passage leads to consider what is due to those who are sent out as missionaries to preach the gospel in heathen lands. As it is not reason
able to expect that they will be treated by heathens as the apostles were treated by the best part of the Jewish population; so, it would be a perversion of the directions here given, to inform them that missionaries should now be sent off without any provision, and abandoned to the mercy of the heathen. That would be not a trusting, but a tempting of Providence. If, indeed, our modern missionaries had the power of working miracles, that alone might secure their support; but, as it is, all prudent and kind care must be taken of them at first; and this care must be continued, until a sufficient interest be excited on the spot where they are, to render supply from a distance unnecessary.
Again, all Christians are here reminded of the duty of hospitality, as in general, so particularly to those who come from a distance on any errand connected with the cause of religion. This we infer from its being supposed that the most worthy inhabitants of the cities and towns would invite the apostles to lodge with them. Of this virtue, Scripture furnishes some beautiful examples, such as that of Abraham and Lot to the angels; that of the widow of Zarephath to Elijah; that of the Shunamite to Elisha, for whom she made a little chamber; that of Job, who said, “The stranger did not lodge in the street, but I opened my doors to the traveller;" that of Lydia to Paul and Luke, and perhaps other disciples, of whom Luke thus writes, " She besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful unto the Lord, come into my house, and abide there, and she constrained us;" and that of the brethren to Paul and his companions at Puteoli. "Be not forgetful,
then, to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
It is only a slight extension of the principle of the rule, Inquire who is worthy," to say, that when Christians come to live in any city, they should be careful of the acquaintances they make: they should not thoughtlessly commit themselves to whomsoever may come in their way, but study, if they are lodgers, to lodge with those who are of good report, and if they are householders, or live with their own family, to become acquainted with those who know and obey the truth.
Finally, ought you not all to be thankful that the kingdom of God is now preached to you, and careful to give it a believing and cordial reception? Το you is the word of this salvation sent. We testify to you the gospel of the of God. We declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise made unto the fathers is fulfilled. "Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man" (Jesus Christ) " is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things." Beware of rejecting this salvation. See that you give us no occasion to shake our raiment, to shake off the dust of our feet against you: but so receive from us the word of life, that you and we may have occasion to rejoice, in the day of Christ, that we have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
* See also 3 John 5-8.
LUKE IX. 10-17.
"And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city, called Bethsaida. 11. And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing. 12. And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals; for we are here in a desert place. 13. But he said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they said, We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people. 14. (For they were about five thousand men.) And he said to his disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in a company. 15. And they did so, and made them all sit down. 16. Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes; and, looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude. 17. And they did eat, and were all filled: and there was taken up of fragments that remained to them twelve baskets."
WE read in the beginning of this chapter, how the apostles, having received their instructions from Christ, set out on their first mission, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and working miracles of healing. Nor did our Lord intermit his labours during their absence: for Matthew tells us, at the beginning of his 11th chapter, that "when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in the cities." We are not informed how long the twelve were out on this occasion; it is obvious, however, that it was but a short time. In the first verse of the passage under consideration, we find that," the apostles when they were returned” from their mission," told Jesus all that they had done." According to Mark,*"the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught." They gave him an account of the doctrine they had preached, and the miracles they had performed; and also, in all probability, of the places they had visited, and the reception they had met with.
* Mark vi. 30.
On this it is proper to remark, that, like the apostles, all ministers all who preach the gospel-must return, at the close of their embassy, to give an account, to the Head of the Church, of their preaching, conduct, and success. This is a consideration well calculated to excite them to diligence and faithfulness, and their hearers to the careful improvement of their ministry. The apostle thus exhorts the Hebrews: "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls as they that must give account; that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
Luke proceeds to say, that Jesus "took them" (the apostles), "and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city, called Bethsaida." The word Bethsaida signifies the city, or rather house, of hunting or fishing. It was well situated for hunting, as it belonged to the tribe of Naphtali, whose district is said to have abounded with deer, to which, as well as to the character of the tribe, some think there is a reference in Moses's blessing: "Naphtali is a hind let loose." And it was peculiarly well suited for fishing, as it lay on the borders of the Lake of Gennesareth, where the River Jordan runs into the lake. Peter and Andrew, who were fishermen, were of this city. There is no mention of this city in the Old Testament, though it is often mentioned in the New: the reason of which, no doubt, is, that it was, according to Josephus, a very obscure place, till Herod-Philip, the tetrarch, built it up into a handsome city, and gave it the new name of Julias, in compliment to Julia, the daughter of Augustus Cæsar. To a desert, or solitary place, belonging to this city, our Lord now repaired with the twelve. We learn, from Mark, why our Lord wished them to retire for a little: it was that they might "rest a while; for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat." He wisely and kindly wished them to rest, after the fatigues of their mission, and to withdraw from the people, who constantly resorted to them, that they might have leisure for reflection, private instruction, and prayer. And, though they met with some interruption, as we shall soon see, he, no doubt, took care that they should not altogether be deprived of such opportunities of edification. Observe here, that the most zealous servants of Christ cannot be always on the stretch: they must have their seasons of rest, and these, it is their Master's wish, should be allowed them. Do not, also, all of us