Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:…
We may consider this name in various views; as a name of distinction from the rest of the world, who know not Christ, or reject Him; as a patronymic name, pointing out the Founder of the Christian Church; as a badge of our relation to Christ as His servants, His children, His bride; as intimating our unction by the Holy Spirit; as Christ was anointed by the Holy Spirit, or above measure, as a name of appropriation, signifying that we are the property of Christ and His peculiar people. But my present design confines me to consider the Christian name —
I. AS A CATHOLIC NAME, INTENDED TO BURY ALL PARTY DENOMINATIONS.
1. The name Gentile was odious to the Jews, and the name Jew to the Gentiles. The name Christian swallows up both in one common and agreeable appellation. He that hath taken down the partition wall, has taken away partition names, and united all His followers in His own name (Colossians 3:11; Galatians 3:28; Zechariah 14:9).
2. It is but a due honour to Christ, the founder of Christianity, that all who profess His religion should wear His name; and they pay an extravagant compliment to his ministers when they take their denomination from them. Had this humour prevailed in the primitive Church there would have been Paulites from Paul, Peterites from Peter, Johnites from John, Barnabites from Barnabas, etc. Paul took pains to crush the first risings of this party spirit in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:12-15). But alas! how little has this convictive reasoning of the apostle been regarded. Not to take notice of , , , , etc., in the popish Church, where, having corrupted the thing, they act very consistently to lay aside the name, what party names have been adopted by the Protestant Churches, whose religion is substantially the same. To be a Christian is not enough nowadays, but a man must also be something more. But where is the reason or propriety of this? I may indeed believe the same things which Luther or Calvin believed: but I do not believe them on the authority of Luther or Calvin, but upon the sole authority of Jesus Christ, and therefore I should not call myself by their name, as one of their disciples, but by the name of Christ, whom alone I acknowledge as my only Master and Lord.
3. To guard against mistakes on this head I would observe that every man has a right to choose for himself in matters of religion. In the exercise of this right he will find that he agrees more fully with some particular Church than others, and thereupon it is his duty to join that Church; and he may, if he pleases, assume the name which that Church wears, by way of distinction from others; this is not what I condemn. But for me to glory in the denomination of any particular Church as my highest character, to lay more stress upon the name of a Presbyterian era Churchman than on that of Christian; to make it the object of my zeal to gain proselytes to some other than the Christian name; to connive at the faults of those of my own party, and to be blind to the good qualities of others, or invidiously to misrepresent or diminish them; these proceed from a spirit of bigotry directly opposite to the generous catholic spirit of Christianity.
II. AS A NAME OF OBLIGATION UPON ALL THAT BEAR IT TO BE CHRISTIANS INDEED, OR TO FORM THEIR TEMPER AND PRACTICE UPON THE SACRED MODEL OF CHRISTIANITY. To be a Christian, in the popular and fashionable sense, is no difficult or excellent thing. It is to be baptized, to believe, like our neighbours, that Christ is the Messiah, and to attend upon public worship once a week. In this sense a man may be a Christian, and yet be habitually careless about eternal things; a Christian, and yet fall short of the morality of many of the heathens. To be a Christian in this sense is no high character; and if this be the whole of Christianity it is very little matter whether the world be Christianised or not. But to be a Christian indeed is the highest character and dignity of which the human nature is capable. To be a Christian is —
1. To depart from iniquity (2 Timothy 2:19). What, then, shall we think of the profligate, profane Christians, that have overrun the Christian world? Can there be a greater contradiction? A loyal subject in arms against his sovereign, an ignorant scholar, a sober drunkard, a charitable miser, an honest thief, is not a greater absurdity, or a more direct contradiction. Therefore, if you will not renounce iniquity, renounce the Christian name. Alexander had a fellow in his army that was of his own name, but a mere coward. "Either be like me," says Alexander, "or lay aside my name."
2. To deny yourselves and take up the cross and follow Christ (Luke 9:23). To deny ourselves is to abstain from the pleasures of sin; to deny our own interest for the sake of Christ. To take up our cross is to bear sufferings, to encounter difficulties, and break through them for His sake. To follow Him is to trace His steps and imitate His example whatever it cost us. These are the terms if you would be Christians. These He honestly warned mankind of when He first called them to be His disciples (Luke 14:25, etc.). What, then, shall we think of those crowds who retain the Christian name, and yet will not deny themselves of their sensual pleasures, nor part with their temporal interest for the sake of Christ? A Christian, without self-denial, and a supreme love to Jesus Christ, is as great a contradiction as fire without heat, or a sun without light, a hero without courage, or a friend without love.
3. To be a follower or imitator of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Peter 2:21; Romans 7:29; Philippians 2:5). Conclusion: I might add that the Christian name is not hereditary, but you must be born anew of the spirit to entitle you to this new name; that a Christian is a believer, believing in Him after whom he is called as his only Saviour and Lord, and that he is a true penitent.You may hence see —
1. That the Christian character is the highest in the world, it includes everything truly great and amiable. To acquire the title of kings and lords is not in your power; to spread your fame as scholars, philosophers, or heroes, may be beyond your reach; but here is a character more excellent, more amiable, more honourable than all these, which it is your business to deserve and maintain. And this is a dignity which beggars and slaves may attain.
2. That if all the professors of Christianity should behave in character, the religion of Christ would soon appear Divine to all mankind, and spread through all nations of the earth. It would be as needless to offer arguments to prove it Divine as to prove that the sun is full of light: the conviction would flash upon all mankind by its own intrinsic evidence.
(S. Davies, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: