Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all…
I. HIS HISTORY AND CHARACTER.
1. His ancestors had settled in Cyprus, for what purposes we know not. There Barnabas was born. He was called at first Joses, but after his conversion to Christianity, Barnabas, perhaps because of his estate — he was a wealthy man, and relieved the necessities of the poor — or because by his preaching he consoled the people of God, and encouraged sinners to come to Christ.
2. Ministers often differ considerably. Some are sons of thunder, others have "the tongue of the learned." Now, never oppose ministers to each other. Their situation, natural complexion, gifts, graces, are different; but the Church needs them, and can well employ them all. Let Paul therefore plant, and Apollos water; let one comfort the feeble-minded, and another be set for the defence of the gospel; let one lay the foundation, and another build thereon. Each has his own work, and each shall have his own reward.
3. Much of the dispositions of persons may be discovered by the objects which awaken their attention and desire when they first enter a country or a town. Some are immediately looking about for scenery, some for curiosities, some for trade, some for buildings, some for libraries, some for pictures. Barnabas was alive to something else — it was "the one thing needful." He immediately looked after the cause of God.
II. HIS DISCOVERY.
1. "The grace of God" is a principle. Seen it must be to God, "to whom all hearts are open"; and known, it may be, by the individuals themselves. But how can it be seen by other's? I know only one way: by its effects. You cannot see life, but you can see the man alive. You cannot see health, but you can see the freshness and vigour of the healthy man. You do not break a tree to examine the rind, or open it to examine the wood, to know of what sort it is; a tree is known by its fruits. God says, "I will put My Spirit within them." But who is to know this? Read on — "and cause them to walk in My statutes." James says to the professor of religion, "Show me thy faith without thy works. I will show thee my faith by my works": I will show thee the spring by the stream; the sun in the shining; the creed by the conduct.
2. When may we be said to "see the grace of God"? I expect to find in a man in whom there is a work of grace —
(1) A change in his outward conduct. If he has been vicious before, he learns to be virtuous; the drunkard becomes sober, etc.
(2) A love of good men; for like not only begets, but also attracts, like. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren."(3) A peculiar attachment to the Scriptures.
(4) A regard for the Sabbath. I am sure that the righteous man always "calls the Sabbath a delight, and the holy of the Lord, honourable." "The grace of God," therefore, will lead a man to regard the means of grace.
(5) Speech seasoned with grace. Physicians look at the tongues of their patients. Ministers should always examine the tongues of their patients. If these are disordered, they may be assured something else is disordered; for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."(6) A temper conformed to the spirit of Christ. Some, in exculpation of their fretful or fierce tempers, say, that the grace of God is sometimes grafted on a crab tree; yes, but when the tree is so grafted, we expect that it will bring forth fruit, not according to the stock, but according to the scion.
(7) Family piety.
3. With regard to the visibility of Divine grace, there are three things which I must remark.
(1) We may, after all, be deceived with regard to it. The imitation may be so nice and fine as to impose upon the most judicious observers. None of the disciples suspected Judas; and Peter, after baptizing Simon Magus, was careful to write of Stephanas, "A faithful brother, as I suppose."(2) You are not to consider persons as destitute of "the grace of God," when their lives are blameless, and they are regular at the means of grace, and in their discharge of the duties of religion. When things are fair in character, you are not to go motive hunting. It is better to be occasionally deceived, than to live always in a temperature of suspicion.
(3) Divine grace is compatible with infirmities; otherwise we should exclude all from the possession of it. Our Saviour does not "despise the day of small things." Let us follow His example.
III. HIS PLEASURE. What he saw was not a pleasing sight to all men. It was a hell to Satan to see how things were now going on; and there are those who too much resemble him. The elder brother did not rejoice when he saw the prodigal received, and there are Pharisees now who are ready to say, "Go to heaven with publicans and harlots"! But the salvation of the sinner is "the pleasure of the Lord." The Saviour here "sees of the travail of His soul and is satisfied." The angels "rejoice over one sinner that repenteth." And every convert may say, "They that fear thee will be glad when they see me." We may consider Barnabas as a partaker of this pleasure.
1. As a man of piety. Whenever a man is converted, God has a subject born. Here is one in whom He is then glorified passively, because he displays traces of His perfections, actively, as he is now "made willing in the day of His power." Can a man of piety see this and not rejoice?
2. As a man of benevolence. Barnabas was pleased when he saw the poor healed, the hungry fed, etc. But he knew that the body was nothing to the soul, or the time to eternity. What is every other attainment compared with that godliness which is "profitable unto all things"! Besides, every subject of Divine grace is not only blessed in himself, but he is made a blessing to others. Can a man of benevolence look on such, and not rejoice?
3. As a minister who had come here from preaching. There are some who cannot rejoice to see things done by others, especially, if they do not belong to their own communion. But if a man has the spirit of Barnabas, he will be able to say, Let God employ what instruments He pleases, therein I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
IV. HIS CONCERN. "Exhorted them." Observe —
1. The importance of his admonition — that they would "cleave unto the Lord," i.e., the Lord Jesus. Him they had received; in Him they were to walk. Had we heard Barnabas, it would have been something to this effect: Cleave to Him as your Teacher, as your Redeemer, as your Support in all your duties and in all your conflicts, as your Comforter, as your Master, as your Example.
2. The nature of it. He "exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they should cleave unto the Lord." Now this impulse — not only conviction, but resolution — always issues out of the heart; and what is religion, unless the heart is engaged from the beginning to the end? Where the man can say with David, "My heart is fixed," he will push on notwithstanding difficulties, and will convert hindrances into furtherances.
3. Its extensiveness. He "exhorted them all"; not only those who were weak in the faith, but those who were strong; not only the young, but the old. When was Solomon's heart led away? In his old age. And does not Paul even say to that fine young man Timothy, "Flee youthful lusts"?
Parallel VersesKJV: Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.