Sermons by Contributors to, Tracts for the Times
Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all…
The character in which St. Barnabas is here presented to us is that of a person greatly rejoicing in other men's goodness. He was glad when he saw the grace of God in his brethren. Of his doing so, there are several other instances; indeed, almost the whole of his conduct towards St. Paul is full, from the beginning, of such generous and affectionate joy. Now, concerning this disposition to rejoice in other men's goodness, it is much easier to see how amiable it looks in others than to practise it one's self in good earnest. Do not men envy others, not merely for their outward advantages, but for their goodness itself; especially for those parts of goodness which they themselves have not the heart to imitate? It is an ancient story, told of a virtuous heathen, that when a loud outcry was once raised against him, and he was to be banished from his country, a person of whom he asked a reason why he gave his vote against him, replied, "I have no objection to you, but I am quite tired of hearing everyone call you the Just." And so throughout life, there is a disposition in the unrenewed heart to grudge all those graces which go too far beyond itself; a disposition the very opposite to that which the Holy Ghost wrought in St. Barnabas by faith. He rejoiced, but these are sorry, on beholding the grace of God. It certainly must require no small faith to believe that it is better on the whole for others to do the good which you desire than for it to be done by yourself. St. Barnabas must have his heart steadily fixed on the unseen rewards prepared on high, to make him acquiesce thus joyfully in his companion, St. Paul, receiving so much more of the encouragement provided for apostolical men in this life. Such self-denial, when regularly kept up, and not only indulged now and then, out of laziness or partial affection, is one of the clearest tokens that God's Holy Spirit is with men, preparing them for eternal glory. And it is seen in nothing so much as in making persons continually watchful, to cherish and confirm one another in every good purpose of heart; in which respect the Spirit of the gospel is most directly opposed to the evil and selfish spirit of this age. For I know not how it is, but people, under pretence of liberty of one sort or another, are come to be, very generally, quite indifferent about the grace and salvation of others. Surely the hard, indifferent way in which too many of us treat the thought of our neighbour's condition towards God is sadly like Cain's way: sadly like the temper which led to a brother's murder. The Christian, Catholic, renewed heart is altogether different from this; it is not at all satisfied, as men of the world are, with persons going on decently and quietly; it wants them to be inwardly sound and pure; first of all to have a good "purpose of heart," and then to persevere in that purpose, "cleaving" to our Lord and Saviour continually. That anxiety about your neighbour's soul, which Christian love causes you to feel, will be a continual, a watchful, a self-denying, but, for the most part, a silent principle. It will show itself in deeds rather than in words, in timely prevention of mischief rather than in late and loud remonstrance. It will not be very sanguine, nor reckon too much of any good which appears to be done, knowing that we are all by nature unstable as water. Nor yet will it be too soon disheartened or disconcerted, knowing that there is hope even of the worst, and that constant efforts and prayers, with the Church of God to your aid, will, by the aid of His good Spirit, prevail against everything but hardened obstinacy. Above all, this care of others' good purposes, to be at all like that of St. Barnabas, must be accompanied with scrupulously good example; even as it is here said of this holy apostle, very emphatically, that "he was a good man." Finally, the good advice of St. Barnabas, here given to the people of Antioch, may well serve as a kind of watchword for all Christians of every station, in times when the Faith and the Church are being violently assailed by their enemies. Then is the time to practise a holy obstinacy; not to mind if you be not able to give reasons, and talk knowingly about things, but "with purpose of heart to cleave to the Lord"; that is, to abide by what the Church has taught you let people say what they will. This will be called bigotry and stubbornness; and they who are wise in their own conceit will insist on your giving a reason for everything. Well, then, let your reason be given, not in words, but in a holy life.
(Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times.)
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.