And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite…
While some good people are overpraised, there are others who hardly get their dues. One of these too much neglected worthies is Barnabas, the "son of consolation," or "son of exhortation," as some Bible scholars prefer to render it. How seldom do we hear his name mentioned either in the pulpit or the lecture-hall or anywhere else! Yet, to my fancy, he is one of the very noblest of the New Testament heroes. As a blind person may detect the presence of a rose by its fragrance, so this good man's character exhales a peculiarly sweet perfume of godliness to those who will study it. He was just the sort of Christian needed in all our Churches in these days. The Bible is very chary of eulogies; but it does not hesitate to call him "a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit." In some vital points he is a Christian to be copied.
1. He was a native of the island of Cyprus, which was renowned for the worship of Venus, and the very name "Cyprian" is still a synonym of impurity. But, as the brightest light is kindled on a point that comes out of a bed of charcoal, so this light-bearer of the gospel came out of a very dark region of debauchery and idolatry. His original name was Joseph; but another name was given him after his conversion to Christ. They christened him Barnabas, the son of consolation. That is a name to be proud of, and it comprehends a vast deal; it signifies a helper of the weak, a guide to the wanderer, a comforter of the sad, a succourer of the perishing, with an eye to discover misery and a hand to relieve it. My old friend William Arnot has well said that this name bespeaks a fine character. "To possess consolation is to give it; not to give it is not to possess it. The more of it you have, the more you may give; and the more you give to others, the more you retain for your own use. This circle, when it is set a-going, moves perpetually, like the sea giving out its waters to the sky, and the sky sending back the boon by rain and the rivers to the sea again." The power of this man lay in the same quality that characterised nearly all those first converts to Christianity, and that was their superabounding sympathy. Barnabas, if in New York or Brooklyn or London now, would likely be found in a mission church for the half or the whole of every Sabbath. He would .show us how to bridge the chasm between wealth and poverty, and between Christian culture and city heathenism. On many an evening during she week he `would be found beside the squalid bed of sickness, or amid the swarming outcasts of the slums. When the members of our Churches become "sons of consolation" in the broadest sense of the word, bestowing not merely their dollars, but their time, their presence, and the sympathy of their hearts upon the unchristianised masses, we shall have a primitive and Pentecostal revival. Personal sympathy is worth more to the poor, the suffering, and the neglected than silver and gold. Pulpits speak only for an hour or two, and then only to those who fill pews before them; it is by sermons in shoes — and plenty of them — that the suffering and the sinning only can be reached. The curse of too much of what passes for Christianity is itself selfishness.
2. There is another plume in the coronet of Barnabas. He was the father of systematic beneficence. We are told that having land he sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. Having given his heart to Christ, he consecrated a goodly portion of his property to his Master's service. Some others of the new converts may have done this as soon as he; but he is the first one mentioned. He is, therefore, to be regarded as the pioneer in that long procession of systematic givers which reaches on to our times, and numbers in its ranks the Nathaniel Ripley Cobbs and James Lenoxes and William E. Dodges, and many other bountiful stewards of the Lord; and not only they who gave of their abundance, but every conscientious Christian who gives according to his means — however humble — and gives spontaneously. Barnabas did more than fling loose money into Christ's treasury. He sold real estate and contributed the proceeds. That looks as if there were real self-denial in the transaction, and that the man would stand a pinch for Christ's sake. When he was converted, the work reached not only the bottom of his heart, but the bottom of his pocket.
(T. L. Cuyler.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,