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Christ, and extends, as may be collected from incidental notes of time, to something more than one year after that event. During which term the preaching of Christianity, so far as our documents inform us, was confined to the single city of Jerusalem. And how did it succeed there? The first assembly which we meet with of Christ's disciples, and that a few days after his removal from the world, consisted of "one hundred and twenty." About a week after this, "three thousand were added in one day;" and the number of Christians, publicly baptized, and publicly associating together, were very soon increased to "five thousand." "Multitudes both of men and women continued to be added;" "disciples multiplied greatly," and "many of the Jewish priesthood, as well as others, became obedient to the faith;" and this within a space of less than two years from the commencement of the institution.
By reason of a persecution raised against the church at Jerusalem, the converts were driven from that city, and dispersed throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria9. Wherever they came, they brought their religion with them: for, our historian informs us1o, that "they that were scattered abroad, went everywhere preaching the word." The effect of this preaching comes afterwards to be noticed, where the historian is led, in the course of his narrative, to observe, that then (i. e. about three years posterior to this") "the churches had rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified, and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy
Ghost, were multiplied." This was the work of the second period, which comprises about four years.
Hitherto the preaching of the gospel had been confined to Jews, to Jewish proselytes, and to Samaritans. And I cannot forbear from setting down in this place an observation of Mr. Bryant, which appears to me to be perfectly well founded:-"The Jews still remain but how seldom is it that we can make a single proselyte! There is reason to think that there were more converted by the apostles in one day, than have since been won over in the last thousand years 12.
It was not yet known to the apostles that they were at liberty to propose the religion to mankind at large. That "mystery," as St. Paul calls it 13, and as it then . was, was revealed to Peter by an especial miracle. It appears to have been 1 about seven years after Christ's ascension that the gospel was preached to the Gentiles of Cesarea. A year after this a great multitude of Gentiles were converted at Antioch in Syria. The expressions employed by the historian are these:-"A great number believed, and turned to the Lord;" "much people was added unto the Lord;" "the apostles Barnabas and Paul taught much people 15." Upon Herod's death, which happened in the next year 16, it is observed, that "the word of God grew and multiplied"." Three years from this time, upon the preaching of Paul at Iconium, the metropolis of Lycaonia, "a great multitude both of Jews and Greeks believed 18" and afterwards, in the course of this veryprogress, he is represented as "making many disciples" at Derbe, a principal city in the same district.
12 Bryant on the Truth of the Christian Religion, p. 112.
13 Eph. iii. 3-6.
14 Benson, book ii. p. 236.
16 Benson, book ii. p. 289.
15 Acts, xi. 21. 24. 26.
Acts, xiv. 1.
Three years 19 after this, which brings us to sixteen after the ascension, the apostles wrote a public letter from Jerusalem to the Gentile converts in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, with which letter Paul travelled through these countries, and found the churches "established in the faith, and increasing in number daily 20. From Asia, the apostle proceeded into Greece, where, soon after his arrival in Macedonia, we find him at Thessalonica; in which city "some of the Jews believed, and of the devout Greeks a great multitude"." We meet also here with an accidental hint of the general progress of the Christian mission, in the exclamation of the tumultuous Jews of Thessalonica, "that they, who had turned the world upside down, were come thither also"." At Berea, the next city at which St. Paul arrives, the historian, who was present, informs us that " many of the Jews believed 23." The next year and a half of St. Paul's ministry was spent at Corinth. Of his success in that city we receive the following intimations: "that many of the Corinthians believed and were baptized;" and "that it was revealed to the apostle by Christ, that he had much people in that city." Within less than a year after his departure from Corinth, and twenty-five years after the ascension, St. Paul fixed his station at Ephesus, for the space of two years 26 and something more. The effect of his ministry in that city and neigh bourhood drew from the historian a reflection, how mightily grew the word of God and prevailed"."” And at the conclusion of this period we find Deme
19 Benson's History of Christ, book iii. p. 50.
Acts, xvii. 4.
Acts, xvii. 12.
20 Acts, xvi. 5.
Acts, xvii. 6.
24 Acts, xviii. 8-10.
Acts, xix. 10.
Benson, book iii. p. 160.
Acts, xix. 20.
trius at the head of a party, who were alarmed by the progress of the religion, complaining that "not only at Ephesus, but also throughout all Asia (i. e. the province of Lydia, and the country adjoining to Ephesus), this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people 28" Beside these accounts, there occurs, incidentally, mention of converts at Rome, Alexandria, Athens, Cyprus, Cyrene, Macedonia, Philippi.
This is the third period in the propagation of Christianity, setting off in the seventh year after the ascension, and ending at the twenty-eighth. Now, lay these three periods together, and observe how the progress of the religion by these accounts is represented. The institution, which properly began only after its author's removal from the world, before the end of thirty years had spread itself through Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, almost all the numerous districts of the Lesser Asia, through Greece, and the islands of the Ægean Sea, the seacoast of Africa, and had extended itself to Rome, and into Italy. At Antioch in Syria, at Joppa, Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, Berea, Iconium, Derbe, Antioch in Pisidia, at Lydda, Saron, the number of converts is intimated by the expressions, "a great number," "6 great multitudes," "much people." Converts are mentioned, without any designation of their number 29, at Tyre, Cesarea,
28 Acts, xix. 26.
29 Considering the extreme conciseness of many parts of the history, the silence about the numbers of converts is no proof of their paucity; for at Philippi, no mention whatever is made of the number, yet St. Paul addressed an epistle to that church. The churches of Galatia, and the affairs of those churches, were considerable enough to be the subject of another letter, and of much of St. Paul's solicitude: yet no account is preserved in the history of his success, or even of his preaching in that country, except the slight notice which these words convey:-"When they had gone throughout Phrygia, and the region of Galatia-they essayed to go into Bithynia." Acts, xvi. 6.
Troas, Athens, Philippi, Lystra, Damascus. During all this time Jerusalem continued not only the centre of the mission, but a principal seat of the religion; for when St. Paul returned thither at the conclusion of the period of which we are now considering the accounts, the other apostles pointed out to him, as a reason for his compliance with their advice, "how many thousands (myriads, ten thousands) there were in that city who believed 3."
Upon this abstract, and the writing from which it is drawn, the following observations seem material to be made:
I. That the account comes from a person who was himself concerned in a portion of what he relates, and was contemporary with the whole of it; who visited Jerusalem, and frequented the society of those who had acted, and were acting the chief parts in the transaction. I lay down this point positively; for had the ancient attestations to this valuable record been less satisfactory than they are, the unaffectedness and simplicity with which the author notes his presence upon certain occasions, and the entire absence of art and design from these notices, would have been sufficient to persuade my mind, that whoever he was, he actually lived in the times, and occupied the situation, in which he represents himself to be. When I say "whoever he was," I do not mean to cast a doubt upon the name to which antiquity hath ascribed the Acts of the Apostles (for there is no cause that I am acquainted with for questioning it), but to observe, that, in such a case as this, the time and situation of the author is of more importance than his name; and