We read in the sacred scriptures, that God in a peculiar manner took charge of the people of Israel, that is to say, of the posterity of Abraham, of his son Isaac, and his grandson Jacob, who obtained the name of Israel. He delivered them by the hand of Moses, his servant, from a most wretched state of slavery, and chose them, for the sake of their fathers, to be his peculiar property. His intention was to make them a truly happy people; and with this view he gave them the most excellent laws, introduced the best orders among them, took the government of them into his own hand, and promised, on condition of their obedience to him, to be their gracious God, and to bless and protect them as his people.
/2/ Thus the Lord God condescended to enter into a covenant with a certain race of men, which, compared with other nations, were neither the greatest, nor the best; but which he, out of mere grace, without any merit of worthiness on their part, had chosen, to the end that he might manifest his glory in them in a peculiar, distinguishing manner [NOTE: Exposition of Christian Doctrine, p. 23, fqq. p. 141, fqq.]. Whoever reads the history of this people with a heart desirous to be instructed, and considers the wonderful ways of God with them in a proper light, will find so many proofs of his wisdom and truth, his lenity and severity, his long- suffering and zeal, his power and might, his holiness and righteousness among that people, that it will prove a blessing to his soul, and at the same time a constant incitement to the praise of God.
As to other nations of those times, they had no share in this peculiar covenant of grace, to which the people of Israel were admitted; they were therefore generally considered as aliens, and commonly called heathen.
Yet we must not think, as though God had left himself without a witness among them. He manifested himself to them by the works of creation, according to his omnipotence, goodness and wisdom. For whenever they beheld the heavens, the sun and the moon, together with that most beautiful host of innumerable stars; whenever they looked on the earth with all its plants, all the beasts, birds and insects; when they considered attentively the springs, streams, and the seas, with the fishes and other creatures therein, the thought must necessarily arise in them: Who is he that made all these /3/ things? Surely it must be a great, wise, powerful, and benevolent Being, from whom all this takes its rise, and by whom all is held in its due course. When they looked at themselves, they could not help perceiving, by natural and rational inference, that their understandings and faculties, as little as their bodies and the members thereof, and still less their lives, originated not of themselves; hence the conclusion: That Being, who made and created me, must indeed be great, good, wise, and powerful. We have eyes to see, ears to hear, feet to walk, hands to work, a mouth to speak; in a word, everything in us is wonderfully formed and made consistent with the end it is designed to answer. We stand in need of eating, drinking, clothing, dwellings; and all that can serve these purposes, we either find already upon the earth, or the warmth of the sun, the air and wind, the rain and dew from heaven, cause them to grow for our use. Who giveth us all this? God, that great, good, wise, and powerful Being [NOTE: Exposition, p. 49, fqq.]. Hence immediately flowed the thought: Should we not reverence this great and gracious God, should we not love him, should we not serve him, should we not thank him? [NOTE: Exposition, p. 85, fqq.].
But how was it with respect to the heathen? Paul saith: "Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened -- HENCE, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools; and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping /4/ things. WHEREFORE God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves, &c." Rom. i. 21, fqq. Paul, explaining this farther, mentions divers shameful things, by which the heathen themselves became an abomination, and adds: "And, even as they did not like to retain God in THEIR knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient: being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful," Rom. i. 28, fqq. Hence we may deduce, that not only the most absurd and foolish idolatries into which the heathen fell, but likewise the fanatical and more than beastly abominations and wickednesses in use among them, were nothing else than chastisements of God on them, because they held the truth in unrighteousness. Now, whereas the heathen who inhabited the land of Canaan, -- where God had before destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Adamah and Zeboim, with fire and brimstone, on account of such abominations, Gen. xix. 1, & fqq. -- had been guilty not only of this, but of many other sins and abominations, -- of which notice is taken in Levit. xviii. 1, fqq. and xx. 2-13. God therefore would positively have them exterminated by the Israelites, together with all the women and children. See Exod. xxiii. 32, fqq. xxxiv. 12, fqq. Deut. vii. 2, fqq.
For this cause then, that the Israelites might not be induced to commit such abominations, God, in general, forbade them all communications with the heathen, /5/ nor would he even allow an Israelite to eat with a heathen.
Notwithstanding this, one cannot deny that many of the heathen very greatly benefited by the singular mercies God vouchsafed to confer on the people of Israel. Nor could the wonderful government of the Lord among the Israelites remain long concealed from other nations. "WE HAVE HEARD," said Rahab, "How the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did unto the two kings of the Amorites that WERE on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we (the Canaanites) had heard THESE THINGS, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he IS in heaven above, and in earth beneath," Josh. ii. 10, fqq. see also ch. ix. 24. It is likewise known from history, that the glorious divine worship at Jerusalem, especially after Solomon had built the temple, was resorted to by many heathen, who not only became acquainted with the law of God, but many of them also embraced the religion of the Israelites. Many nations were likewise reproved for their sins by the prophets, whom God called forth among the Israelites, and who announced divine judgements upon them unless they amended. We see with admiration, from Jonah iii. 4, fqq. what blessed effects the preaching of the prophet Jonah produced in the king and people of Nineveh: When not only the residue of the Israelites in Canaan, but also the Egyptians, the Philistines, those of Tyre and Sidon, the Moabites, and other neighbouring nations, were, according to the counsel /6/ of God, to fall under the yoke of the king of Babylon, the Lord ordered Jeremiah to foretell it to them, with the admonition, to submit willingly, if they would avoid a miserable destruction. For he himself, the Lord God, had sent the king of Babylon upon them, on account of their sins. Even the captivity of the Israelites in Babylon, which continued for seventy years, and the long foretold termination of it by Cyrus, made the heathen acquainted with the God of Israel, as may be seen in the prophet Daniel.
Besides this, we are not to consider God's covenant of grace with the people of Israel in such a view, as though God, because he granted such prerogatives to the Israelites, had, on this account, relinquished all care for the souls of the heathen. O, no! for all souls are his. God certainly tries with every man all that may conduce to his advantage, and this he does in various ways, consistent with his love and wisdom. And here we may apply what Elihu said: "In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; then he openeth the ears of man, and sealeth their instruction: that he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man. He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword: he is chastened also with pain upon his bed, &c. Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, to bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living," Job xxxiii. 15, fqq [NOTE: Exposition of Christian Doctrine, part 37].
Paul, speaking to the Jews, in Rom. ii. declares with energy, that they were by no means better than /7/ the Gentiles before God, though he had committed his law unto them, unless they lived also conformably to the law. For if a heathen, who had not the written law, but yet knew well enough what is right, and wrong, (for that was written in his heart); if such a one did the things contained in the law, he would undoubtedly be justified in the judgement of God, before a Jew that boasted of the law, and yet observed it not. For there is no respect of persons with God.
In the abovementioned chapter Paul also makes a difference between Jews and Jews. (By Jews he means not only those belonging to the tribe of Judah, but all Israelites). "He is not a Jew," saith he, "which is one outwardly; but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly," Rom. ii. 28, 29.
Thus likewise he maketh a difference between heathen and heathen, giving to understand that a heathen, who knoweth and doeth what is right, is as valuable before God as a Jew, although he had not been circumcised outwardly; and that, on the other hand, a Jew that glorieth in the outward circumcision, but who yet keepeth not the law, which insists on the love of God and one's neighbour, was to the full as bad as any heathen.
God therefore is not only a God of the Jews, but of the Gentiles also; and it is evident, from the scriptures of the Old Testament, that he always thought of the salvation of the Gentiles; and, to speak after the manner of men, rejoiced as it were at the time, when the Gentiles also should become his people. For when he, by his prophets, set before the Jews, who were not a whit better than the most dissolute heathen, his impending /8/ judgements, he always spoke comfort to them that were Israelites indeed, and among others also with this, that the multitude of the Gentiles should be gathered and with them should be one people. See Isa. ii. 2, fqq. xliii. 5, &c. xlix. 18, &c. lv. 5. lx. 3, &c. lxv. 1, &c. Zach. ii. 10, &c. viii. 22. Mich. iv. 1, &c. Mal. i. 11.
God had already promised to Abraham, "In thy seed;" and Paul declares that this seed of Abraham is Christ, Gal. iii. 16. "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed," Gen. xxii. 18. And this promise he repeated not only to Isaac, but also to Jacob, Gen. xxvi. 4. and xxviii. 14. By the prophet Jeremiah the Lord declareth the same: "The nations shall be blessed in him, and shall glory in him," Jer. iv. 2. To Christ, the mediator of the new covenant, God saith: "I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession," Psalm ii. 8. And, in the prophet Isaiah, he saith: "It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: 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. In like manner: "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my Spirit upon him; he shall bring forth judgement to the Gentiles," Isa. xlii. 1. And farther: "I give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles, to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house," Isa. xlii. 6, 7. In the Psalms, where the deep humiliation of the Lord our Saviour, and his heavy and bitter sufferings are spoken of, in the spirit of prophecy, it is said immediately after: "All the ends of the /9/ world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee," Psalm xxii. 27. But when our Lord Jesus Christ is described by the prophets as the King of glory, that sat down at the right hand of his Father in heaven, the passages treating of him are very numerous; the following, among the rest, are remarkable: "He, the King, shall speak peace among the heathen, and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even unto the ends of the earth," Zech. ix. 10. Again: "All kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him," Psalm lxxii. 11. When the promulgation of the gospel is mentioned, then the Holy Spirit saith, by the mouth of David: "There is no speech, nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world," Psalm xix. 3, 4. Heathenism is by the prophets described as a wilderness and solitary place, and then it is said, concerning the times of the New Testament: "The wilderness shall be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest," Isa. xxxii. 15. Further: "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose," Isa. xxxv. 1, fqq. Now, in the above words whatever is expressed figuratively, is by the prophets in other places, mentioned quite plainly: e.g. "It shall come to pass that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God," Hos. i. 10. And again: "I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy, and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God," Hos. ii. 23. Not to mention many peculiar promises given to this or the /10/ other heathenish country, in a view to their being made partakers of the grace of the New Testament. I likewise pass over many other passages of the prophets, it appearing sufficiently from those just quoted, that, in the time of the old covenant, God repeatedly remembered the heathen, and that he would at the appointed hour admit them also into his covenant.
When the fulness of time was come, God sent his Son into the world, and thereby caused great joy to all them that were waiting for the consolation of Israel. Among these there was one Simeon, an Israelite indeed, to whom it was revealed upon his prayer to God, by the Holy Ghost who was upon him, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ, the Messiah. He came by the Spirit into the temple, when the child Jesus was brought in and presented to the Lord as the first-born and called holy. Then Simeon took the child up in his arms, and blessed God, and said: "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation: which thou hast prepared before the face of all people: A LIGHT TO LIGHTEN THE GENTILES, and the glory of thy people Israel," Luke ii. 22, fqq. Thus did God openly manifest, by the Holy Spirit, that this child, his Christ, his Annointed, was also the Saviour of the Gentiles. Some wise men also came from the East to Jerusalem (they were learned Gentiles), in order to adore this new-born King of the Jews; and, being directed to go to Bethlehem, they there saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him, Matt. ii. It is probable that they might hope for his appearance, perhaps from the times of Daniel, /11/ who had so gloriously prophesied of him at Babylon. In this hope they were confirmed, when they now beheld the same star, they had already seen in the East, in Judea, standing over where the young child was. Hence we may, with great probability, infer, that many heathen hoped and expected to derive much blessing from this King of the Jews.
Yet our Lord Jesus Christ did not, in person, preach the gospel to the heathen. For this he assigns the reason in these words: "I AM NOT SENT, but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel," Matt. xv. 24. Nor would he, in the time of his walking here on earth, permit his disciples to preach to the Gentiles. In the instruction he gave them it was expressly said: "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not," Matt. x. 5. In the meantime he was, however, not unwilling to afford his help even to heathen, when they applied to him. A woman of Canaan -- probably a descendant from those nations, who, on account of their wickedness, were an abomination to God, and whom, for this reason, he would have to be extirpated by the Israelites -- this woman cried unto him for her daughter, who was grievously vexed with a devil; he at first put her faith to the trial. But, she persevering, he said unto her, "O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour," Matt. xv. 22-28. A Roman centurion came unto him, beseeching him for his servant, who was sick of the palsy and grievously tormented, saying: "Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. Then said Jesus unto him: Go /12/ thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the self-same hour," Matt. viii. 5, 13. Nor did our Lord Jesus Christ wholly abandon the Samaritans, who were in fact not much better than the heathen; for their religion was a mixture of Judaism and Heathenism, as may be perceived from the account of his conversation with a woman of Samaria, and its consequences, John iv. 4, fqq. But, that the heathen were likewise intended to attain to the new covenant of grace, so frequently indicated by the appellation of the kingdom of God, Christ plainly intimated to the disciples, partly in sundry parables, which may be read in Matt. xxi. 28-41. and xxii. 1-14, and partly expressed it in plain terms. See Matt. viii. 11, 12, and xxi. 43.
But let us now consider how our Lord Jesus Christ executed the counsel of God with regard to the heathen. According to his deep wisdom, he chose persons of mean extraction to be his witnesses upon earth; they possessed no philosophical knowledge, but yet were not unacquainted with the books of holy writ, then extant. Paul had indeed been brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, a notable teacher in Jewish literature; yet, he had at the same time learned the business of a tent-maker, agreeable to the common opinion of the Jews, who thought, that a father who did not let his son learn some business, acted as improperly as if he taught him to steal. To all these the Lord gave commandment, that they should go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, that is, to all the heathen, Matt. xxviii. 19, Mark xvi. 15. But though the apostles in general had this commandment, to go /13/ into all the world, and to preach the gospel to all the heathen; yet is Paul particularly called the Apostle of the Gentiles, because he had indeed laboured among them more than all the rest.
Peter was the first that preached the gospel to a Roman centurion, Cornelius, and to his relations and friends, who were called together to that end. What was the subject of his preaching? He spake of Christ Jesus, as the Annointed of God, and Lord of all. Him God had sent to preach peace unto the children of Israel, which he also did. That he went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with him. Him they slew and hanged on a tree. Him God raised up the third day. They, the apostles, had seen him after his resurrection; and he had commanded them to preach unto the people, and to testify, that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. And in conclusion Peter added: To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him, shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word, and they were directly baptized. Now what was the whole content of the apostle Peter's sermon to the heathen? Why, Christ, the Messiah, sent of God, and that he was the way to obtain salvation for all men that believe on him, Acts x. 34, fqq.
Paul's calling to the labour in the gospel among the Gentiles was attended with peculiar solemnity. Our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him at mid-day, in a splendour far surpassing the brightness of the sun, which so greatly dazzled his eyes, as to deprive him of sight. /14/ Three days and three nights he continued in this melancholy condition; and, as the Lord Jesus had called to him from heaven, saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecuteth thou me?" -- we know, that whosoever persecutes the members of Christ, persecutes him himself -- one may readily conceive in what anguish, distress, pain, and repentance, he spent that time in watching, fasting, tears, and prayers. Upon which, according to God's command, he was comforted by Ananias, restored to sight, baptized, and filled with the Holy Ghost, and immediately confessed openly, that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ. O how willingly doth the Lord our Saviour forgive, even his blasphemers and persecutors their sins, if they turn to him! Acts ix. 1, fqq.
At this first appearing, our Lord Jesus Christ called Paul to his service among the Gentiles in these words: "I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of those things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people (the Jews), and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me," Acts xxvi. 16, 17, 18.
Upon this Paul went to Arabia; and then, after three years, he went up to Jerusalem, Gal. i. 17, 18. And, while praying there in the Temple, the Lord appeared to him again, and commanded him to make haste and get quickly out of Jerusalem, for he would send him far thence unto the Gentiles, Acts xxii.
While he was at Antioch, certain teachers and prophets joined with him in prayer and fasting, when the Holy Ghost said: "Separate me Barnabas and Saul /15/ for the work, whereunto I have called them," Acts xiii. Upon this he again went among the Gentiles.
Let us, however, well observe what he saith in Gal. i. 11, 12. "I certify you, brethren, that the gospel, which was preached of me, is not after man. For I neither received it of man; neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." The same he testified to the Corinthians: "I have received of the Lord, that which also I delivered unto you," I Cor. xi. 23 and xv. 3.
Thus it pleased God to reveal his Son in Paul, THAT HE MIGHT PREACH HIM AMONG THE HEATHEN, Gal. i. 16. And indeed Paul counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. Phil. iii. 8. He saith concerning himself: "I DETERMINED NOT TO KNOW ANY THING AMONG YOU, SAVE JESUS CHRIST, AND HIM CRUCIFIED," I Cor. ii. 2. It was Christ Jesus, whom he laid down as the foundation, testifying, that "OTHER FOUNDATION CAN NO MAN LAY;" that all was to be built upon him, I Cor. iii. 11, fqq. Hence he calls himself "a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, and SEPARATED TO PREACH THE GOSPEL OF GOD, OF THE SON OF GOD," Rom. i.
The contents of his sermons are briefly comprised in these words: "WE PREACH CHRIST CRUCIFIED, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks (the heathen) foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, CHRIST THE POWER OF GOD, AND THE WISDOM OF GOD," I Cor. i. 23, 24.
And thus Paul preached for the space of two years, daily, at Ephesus, so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard THE WORD OF THE LORD JESUS, Acts xix. 10. And, /16/ being at Rome, he dwelt two years in his own hired house, PREACHING THE KINGDOM OF GOD, AND TEACHING THOSE THINGS WHICH CONCERN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST with all confidence, Acts xxviii 30, 31. Hence it is very clear that Christ was the marrow and sap of Paul's preaching, whom he everywhere laid for the foundation, and that it was his chief concern to derive every thing from him.
However, though we find very little recorded in holy writ concerning the labours of the other apostles among the heathen, besides what has been quoted in part 9, (indeed that which we read of Philip in Acts viii. 27, fqq. also belongs to this article) yet we have reason to thank God for having caused so much to be handed down to us of Paul's labours. There it appears, that Paul spoke differently to different people, yet always in such a manner as constantly to lead to Christ. Indeed the doctrine of Christ's death upon the cross was always the main point of his preaching. And why? Because by HIS death we obtain salvation and the forgiveness of sin. Therefore he also calls the gospel simply, "THE PREACHING OF THE CROSS," as e.g. I Cor i. 18. "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us, which are saved, it is the power of God." Compare with Rom. i. 16. For the same reason he calls the gospel briefly "THE WORD OF RECONCILIATION," and the office of a minister of the gospel is called, "THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION," 2 Cor. v. 18. In this view also Paul evidently set forth, before the eyes of the Galatians, Jesus Christ crucified among them, Gal. iii. 1.
He likewise spake of the resurrection of Christ, his dwelling in glory, his coming again to execute judgement. /17/ In short, taking altogether what I can find in holy writ concerning Paul, I should suppose the contents of his preaching to those heathen that were not yet converted, to have been nearly this: "Ye poor heathen have hitherto had no share in the covenant, which God made with the people of Israel: ye have lived in abominable idolatry, and in other horrible sins. But God will now begin to do a new thing among you, since he hath sent his Son into the world to be the Saviour of all men. Him they have indeed crucified and slain; but he is risen again, and ascended into heaven. He now hath sent us to acquaint the heathen, that in Christ they may obtain the remission of sins, life and salvation. But then they must forsake their wicked ways, wherein they have walked hitherto, and must receive Christ, by faith, as their Lord and Redeemer, who is also the light of the Gentiles. And, if they are baptized in his name, they will be cleansed from their sins, made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and delivered from the power of darkness; they become the children of God, and heirs of eternal life. If they believe not, they are condemned: for Christ will appear unto judgement, and give unto every man according to his works." For the apostle's office was TO ESTABLISH AMONG THE HEATHEN, OBEDIENCE TO THE FAITH IN CHRIST. And thus the gospel of Christ was the power of God to every one that believeth, Rom. i. 5. and xvi.
As to the manner of his preaching, Paul declares more than once, especially to the Corinthians, "When I came unto you, saith he, I CAME NOT WITH EXCELLENCY OF SPEECH, OR OF WISDOM, DECLARING UNTO YOU THE TESTIMONY OF GOD," I Cor. ii. 1. Likewise: "We have not received the /18/ spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God; which things we also speak, NOT IN WORDS WHICH MAN'S WISDOM TEACHETH, BUT WHICH THE HOLY GHOST TEACHETH," I Cor. ii. 12, 13. For this he assigns the reason in the following words: "Christ sent me to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, LEST THE CROSS OF CHRIST SHOULD BE MADE OF NONE EFFECT; for the preaching of the cross (of Christ) is, surely, foolishness to them that perish; but unto us, which are saved, it is the power of God," I Cor. i. 17, 18. And farther: "My speech and my preaching was NOT WITH ENTICING WORDS OF MAN'S WISDOM, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: THAT YOUR FAITH SHOULD NOT STAND IN THE WISDOM OF MAN, BUT IN THE POWER OF GOD," I Cor. ii. 4, 5.
To make this clear, I cannot help taking notice, that rhetoric was in those days very common both among the Romans and the Greeks. People were taught to speak with art and choice words, which please men, and bring them over to the speaker's opinion, so that they hardly know what is come to them, their passions are moved, they are carried away and induced to receive that which is propounded to them. This, saith Paul, was not the manner in which I preached the gospel unto you. At that time there were also among the Romans, as well as among the Greeks, many philosophers; these sought for wisdom, and strained the power of their understanding to acquire more knowledge and insight than other people were possessed of. By this they distinguished themselves, set up schools, endeavouring to inculcate their opinions to others, and wrote books upon them. They would, for example, speak of this and the /19/ other virtue, alleging reason upon reason, why it ought to be diligently followed after. Yet all such representations could not convey into poor people any power to forsake evil, and to follow after that which is good; although their reasons were ever so specious, and considered as excellent wisdom.
Now, saith Paul, it was not at all ON THIS WISE, that he preached the gospel. Declaring that the word of the cross was in itself fraught with divine power; nor did it stand in need of any human argumentation in order to gain entrance; seeing that there was nothing in it that was in the least inconsistent with divine wisdom; though it be not comprehensible to men that are wise after this world, and who look upon it as foolishness. Nor was it in the least deficient in point of plainness, seeing that it was hid and unintelligible to them only that were lost. The cause of it was this, that the god of this world (that is, the devil, whom it serves) hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them, 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4. Nay, Paul not only deemed it needless to set forth the gospel in high terms of human wisdom, but even believed it dangerous. Believing that the word of the cross of Christ, or the gospel, might be weakened thereby, and be made of none effect; as wine is weakened by the addition of water, and yet may be sold for genuine wine. Thus his sentiment was this: If I preach the gospel without any human additions, faith will be grounded upon the word of God; and that is fraught with divine power. That is, it will rest on a firm, steadfast and immovable basis.
If a man believes for this reason, because an eloquent speaker, or philosopher, renders his subject agreeable, backs it with many proofs, and a charming selection /20/ of words: the faith of such a one is grounded on wisdom barely human. Now if another eloquent speaker and philosopher comes, and with as many proofs and words as beautiful as the former, demonstrates the opposite to that which the former had demonstrated; the faith of such a one wavers, and is inconsistent. And is not this plainly obvious in our days? Here the one endeavours to render certain doctrines of the gospel plausible and rational by dint of human wisdom, while another alleges as many reasons, and brings as much human wisdom to prove that the same doctrines are equally incomprehensible and irrational. He, whose faith standeth on such grounds, is like a ship at sea without her rudder. On the contrary, whosoever believes the gospel, because it is the word of God, which he hath experienced in his own soul as the power of God, he abideth secure in the midst of storms and tribulations.
What our Lord Jesus Christ gave Paul to understand by Ananias, on his first obtaining mercy, namely, that he would shew him how great things he must suffer for his name's sake, Acts ix. 16, was, in the sequel, abundantly fulfilled in him. He gives a brief account of it in 2 Cor. xi. 23, fqq., and what he saith of this is remarkable: "We rejoice in hope of the glory of God; and not only so, but WE GLORY IN TRIBULATION ALSO," Rom. v. 2, 3. He therefore could with much confidence exhort his fellow-labourers, 2 Cor. vi. 1, fqq., which passage ought to be deeply and faithfully laid to heart by all the servants of Jesus.
Paul also confirmed what he taught among the heathen (by his own example. ??) -- [NOTE: THE PRINT IS OBSCURE HERE AND I'M NOT SURE IF WHAT I HAVE IN PARENTHESES IS CORRECT OR NOT; I HAVE TRIED TO INTERPRET IT AS ACCURATELY AS POSSIBLE GIVEN THE CONTEXT OF THE REST OF THE SENTENCE -- HEATHER]. He therefore could confidently /21/ say: "BRETHREN, BE FOLLOWERS TOGETHER OF ME, AND MARK THEM WHICH WALK SO, AS YE HAVE US FOR AN EXAMPLE," Phil. iii. 17. And farther: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report: if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think of these things: THOSE THINGS, WHICH YE HAVE both learned and received, and HEARD AND SEEN IN ME, DO; and the God of peace shall be with you," Phil. iv. 8, 9. See also I Thess. ii. 10. Thus he continued till he saw the end of his days drawing near, and then he wrote to Timothy: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day," 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8. See also I Cor. iv. 16. and xi. 1, where he saith, BE YE FOLLOWERS OF ME, EVEN AS I ALSO AM OF CHRIST.
I do not consider the miracles and wonders wrought by Paul among the Gentiles in that view, as being at all necessary to the confirmation of the gospel, in Acts xiv. 3, and xix. 11, fqq. As there is no occasion to prove that the sun yields light and warmth; that proving itself: so the gospel proves the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, for it is the word of God. The miracles were, however, an undoubted proof of Paul's apostleship, and of his being sent of God.
But what shall we say of Paul's zeal against Elymas the sorcerer, who endeavoured to prevent the governor Sergius Paulus from believing in Christ, when he addresses him thus: "O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness [NOTE: AGAIN SOME WORDS ARE MISSING -- HEATHER] the right /22/ ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season," Acts xiii. 10, 11. Was this the fire of nature, or heat of passion? O no! For it is expressly said that Paul, when he was uttering this, was filled with the Holy Ghost, Acts xiii. 9. If a servant of Christ in our days were to speak to people, that do the same thing as Elymas did, on this wise, what would they think and say of him? But Paul said: "Who is offended, AND I BURN NOT?" 2 Cor. i. 29.
The consequences of preaching the gospel among the heathen were these, that some of them believed, and others believed not. That our Lord and Saviour, who was hanged on the cross and slain, should be risen again and ascended up into heaven, many could not at all reconcile this with their ideas, and therefore they considered it as a foolish saying. As little could they comprehend and find it consistent with their notions, that they, through faith in this Jesus, who was crucified, and by no other way or means should obtain forgiveness of sins, and life everlasting. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, they mocked, Acts xvii. 32. Felix the governor trembled as Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgement to come, Acts xxiv. 25, but yet he received not the gospel which he had heard of Paul, because he loved sin.
Many, however, received the gospel of Christ in faith and were baptized. When Philip preached the gospel of Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch, a man of great authority under Queen Candace, and he thereupon wished to be baptized, Philip said: "If thou believest with /23/ all thine heart, thou mayest." On his confessing: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God," he forthwith obtained holy baptism. The jailor at Philippi, who at first drew his sword and would have killed himself, and afterwards asked trembling: "What must I do to be saved?" was answered by Paul, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Upon this (which was about midnight) he spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house; and, believing in God, with all his house, he, and all his, were baptized straightway the same night." Acts xvi. 23, fqq. Thus the apostles as little delayed to baptize the Gentiles, when they believed in Jesus, as they did the Jews, when they received the word with faith, as may be seen in Acts ii. For there Peter was preaching the gospel of Christ to the Jews, and told them freely, that they had, by wicked hands, crucified and slain Christ; and when they were pricked in their heart, and asked, Men and brethren, what shall we do? He exhorted them to repent and turn to Christ. Then they that gladly received his word, were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls: obtaining the remission of sins, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Nor did the apostles cease to give the believers farther instruction after baptism. Thus, for example, Paul spent a whole year with Barnabas, in teaching the church at Antioch, Acts. ii. 26. At Corinth he continued a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them, Acts xviii. 11. At Ephesus he separated the disciples, that is, the believers, and had meetings with /24/ them every day for the space of two years, Acts xix. 9, 10. Where Paul himself could not tarry, or return again, there he left one or another of his fellow-labourers behind, or caused such churches to be visited by them, that thus they might obtain farther instruction. In his epistles, of which many are yet extant, and for which we thank God, he gave them also excellent advice, reminding them partly of what they had heard of him, and partly explaining to them yet further, what he had begun to tell them of God, of his works, and of his will. Nay, he also made them acquainted with many passages of the scriptures of the Old Testament, as appears by I Cor. x. and Gal. iii. Thus doing what our Saviour had commanded: "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE ALL THINGS, WHATSOEVER I HAVE COMMANDED YOU," Matt. xxviii. 19, 20.
Paul likewise ordered, in all places where he had preached the gospel, how the meetings of believers should and ought to be conducted. One may read what he wrote on this head to the Corinthians, in I Cor. xiv. Where not only Gentiles, but also Jews, had received, by faith, Christ crucified as their Lord and Saviour, he constituted ONE church of both, and maintained with great energy, that, according to the gospel, the one was not to be preferred before the other. At the same time leaving to believers from among the Jews, who thought themselves obligated to observe the law of Moses, their full liberty in regard to the observance of certain days, or abstinence from this and the other sort of meats. But, as to believers from the Gentiles, Paul contended /25/ with the greatest zeal against those Jews, who were always endeavouring to compel others to be circumcised, and to keep the law of Moses with respect to certain days, meats, dress, and the like. Yet he everywhere earnestly insisted on a strict observation of what the synod had concluded upon in Acts xv. He moreover introduced into the churches the holy communion, or the sacrament of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, declaring: "I have received of the Lord that which I delivered unto you," I Cor. xi. 23; shewing at the same time, how they were to behave in order to enjoy it with real benefit, I Cor. xi. 26, fqq. He likewise told them his mind respecting believers from among the Gentiles, how they should conduct themselves in regard to clothing, and other matters belonging to decency and good order, on which he insisted.
Where Paul found, in any church, persons who had grace and gifts, he made them his helpers and fellow-labourers, and then, being certified of the will of the Lord therein, he would appoint them to be elders, teachers, and servants in the churches, Acts xiv. 23. With such helpers he took particular pains, as appears evidently from his discourse to the elders of the church at Ephesus, whither he had sent for them to come to him at Miletus. For there he saith: "Remember, THAT BY THE SPACE OF THREE YEARS I CEASED NOT TO WARN EVERY ONE NIGHT AND DAY WITH TEARS," Acts xx. 31. He also most earnestly recommended to them, to take heed unto themselves, and to all the flock, and to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood, Acts xx. 28. But wherever Paul could not personally make such regulations, /26/ he committed them to one or another of his fellow-labourers. To this end he especially made use of his dear Timothy and Titus, and gave those two brethren good instructions in his epistles, what they had necessarily to consider, when they would ordain any elders, bishops and overseers -- these appellations meant at that time one and the same thing -- or when they would appoint a servant of the church, I Tim. iii. 1, fqq., and what they had particularly to recommend to them, I Tim. v. 17, fqq. He also shews what they were to observe respecting the female sex, I Tim. v. 2, fqq., and likewise how they might make use of experienced women among their own sex, Tit. ii. Indeed all the labour of the apostle on the believers from among the heathen tended to this; that the word of God might be taught in purity and clearness, and they might conformably to it, live holy, as the children of God. He therefore insisted on discipline and order among them, exhorting them not only to eat with a man who called himself a brother, and yet lived in open works of the flesh, but to put such away from them, I Cor. v. 1, fqq. Nor would he suffer any to go to the Lord's table, if he would not be freed from things that were inconsistent with the word of God, and with the love of God and of our neighbour: everyone should examine himself, and if any would not amend, he ought to stay away, I Cor. x. 16, fqq., I Cor. xi. 20, fqq., for that he drew near to it unworthily, would thereby draw upon himself a judgement of God, and a chastening from the Lord, I Cor. xi. 29, fqq.
What Paul declares to the elders of the church of Ephesus: Ye know, how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house: for I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God, Acts xx. 20 and 27. This he used to do in all places. However he observed that difference, that he gave to every one their due meat: to children, he gave milk, I Cor. iii. 2. and to others, strong meat, Heb. v. 12. He also considered the circumstances in which everyone was, and it was the chief concern of his heart to impart to each, suitable advice. To the masters he told, how they were to behave towards their servants and slaves; and to servants and slaves, how they were to behave to their masters according to the mind of Christ Jesus. In short, all and everyone, whoever they were, whether children, young men, maidens, husbands, wives, widowers, or widows, had their share in the general instruction. But then what was to be said to everyone in particular, was also particularly inculcated to him and others who were in the like case with him. As in the churches some were appointed to be overseers and watchmen over others, so he informed both the one and the other, what was expected of them as children of God. And whereas, at that time, the Christian churches stood entirely under the government of heathen princes and magistrates, he exhorted them in particular to a conscientious and submissive obedience toward them. At times he held visitations in the churches; and, when he could not attend in person, he would send for this purpose, one or another of his fellow labourers.
Here I must still take notice of sundry other points. That God should render the Gentiles partakers of the same grace that was bestowed on the Jews, was quite a new thing. And as the major part of the Jews despised the counsel of God concerning their salvation, and were themselves on this account rejected; therefore the heathen who believed in Jesus were preferred before them, and became members of the body of Christ, that is, his church. Now Paul exhorts them not to be proud, or by any means to think themselves better than the Jews. For if they did not preserve this grace in humility, nor make a faithful use of it, they might be rejected in the same manner as the Jews were, Rom. xi. 16, fqq.
The members of the churches, in the places where they lived, dwelling among the heathen, and their nearest of kin still continuing in Paganism; they were of course constantly exposed to suffer hurt in their souls. Hence Paul exhorts them not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, nor have any fellowship with them; for what communion hath light with darkness, or what concord hath Christ with Belial? 2 Cor. vi. 14, 15.
That Paul, for the rest, preached the gospel gratis, in sundry places, to the heathen, as, for example, at Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, not making use of the liberty to receive his subsistence from them; which, however, had he done it, would not have been wrong: he seems to have done thus, merely in order to be more extensively useful. He was glad that he could earn something by his work, and that the brethren in Macedonia so kindly assisted him by their ministration.
There were likewise people who rendered Paul's office difficult to him, by sowing tares in the fields in which he had to labour. They pretended that Paul did not teach the people right, and depreciated both him and his labours. They would insinuate, that Peter, John, and James were the men WHO HAD HEARD Christ himself; their doctrine was not like Paul's; they held circumcision, and kept the law of Moses. At the same time those very people were ambitious to be considered as apostles of Jesus Christ, and by this means caused no small confusion in the churches of Christ which Paul, by the grace of God, had planted. They actually succeeded so far, that sundry churches, to their own detriment, forsook Paul. Such persons Paul rebuked very sharply in his epistles, calling them false apostles, dogs, evil workers, the concision, Phil. iii. 2, and saith: "I would they were even cut off which trouble you," Gal. v. 12. Perhaps THIS was a fleshly zeal? No, saith he, on a similar occasion, "But I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy," 2 Cor. xi. 2. These circumstances indeed obliged him to speak much of himself, and to magnify his office. He was an apostle not of man, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, Gal. i. 1. Nor had he received that gospel, which he preached, of man; but by the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. That he was not less than the great apostles; nay, he laboured more abundantly than they all; and had endured more stripes for Christ's sake, than all of them. That his doctrine among the Gentiles was right and perfectly consistent with the decision of the general meeting at Jerusalem, Acts. xv. That his churches, which he had planted by the gospel, /30/ were a proof of his apostleship, and that the Lord was with him. Hence it is clear that cases may occur, when a servant of Jesus is necessitated to oppose WITH ZEAL the adversaries of the truth, and when it is his incumbency to speak of himself, according to truth.
Paul was very faithful in his endeavours to preserve the unity of spirit in the churches, recommending to them especially: "Endeavour to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace," Eph. iv. 3. The diversities of gifts of the Spirit, which appeared in the congregations at the first beginnings of the church of Christ, Rom. xii. 6. I Cor. xii. 4, fqq. occasioned at times misunderstandings. For one or another began to be lifted up with them, and thus it happened, for example, that some brethren spoke in the church in strange languages, which none of the hearers understood. Herein Paul set them to rights, shewing how they were to consider their gifts, and that miracles were not meant for the sake of believers, but of unbelievers. That they should look upon themselves as members of one body; and that if each acted according to his appointment, one serving the other with that gift which he had received of God in love and simplicity, then the whole body would be benefited thereby. That for the rest, no member was to exalt itself above the other; for that the one was always necessary to the other; and the most unworthy in appearance might possibly at the same time be the most needful. It is still to be observed, that Paul never ceased to pray for the churches, and on the other hand recommended to the churches to pray diligently for him.
Should I now proceed farther, and show, from history, how it went with respect to the conversion of the Gentiles, since the times of the apostles to the present day; this would indeed be to me an agreeable, and, I hope, useful labour. But my present intention is only to say something of the labour of the evangelical brethren among the heathen in general. In doing which I have occasionally referred partly to David Crantz's Ancient and Modern History of the Brethren, and the missions of the evangelical brethren, and partly to his History of Greenland, and likewise to what Oldendorp saith in the History of the Mission of the evangelical Brethren in St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. Jan [NOTE: This History, which was published in German in the year 1777, and met with a very favourable reception from the public, is now translating into English].
Whether we consider what has already been done for many centuries relative to the conversion of the heathen, or whether we think of what might and ought yet to be done for the conversion of so many thousands of them, that have not yet any knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, what the evangelical brethren have done among the heathen in our day, appears but a very small matter. However, God, who looketh on men of low estate, and despiseth not the poor and needy, hath of his mercy not left the service of the brethren among the heathen without a blessing. Indeed many sensible and godly men have received with complacency the abovementioned accounts, /32/ and many readers have perused them with edification and praised God for them. My view at present is only to shew the occasion of the brethren's labour among the heathen, and what steps they have taken therein; I will afterwards add something about the brethren's method of preaching the gospel among them.