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abroad. St. Peter, to whom our Savionr had given a distinguished charge, taking this favourable op. portunity of addressing the great multitude thus drawn together, so strongly persuaded them to repent “and be baptized” in the true faith, that the same day there were added unto them 3000 souls.” And fear and wonder came upon all, and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles, and the Lord added to the church daily."--(Acts, ii. 41.)
The miracles they performed, and the great success of their proceedings, soon raised the jealousy of the chief priests; which they expressed by seizing Peter and John, who had just then restored a well-known cripple to the perfect use of his limbs in the name of Jesus Christ.
The council consulted together, saying, “What shall we do to these men, for that a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell at Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it? So having threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people."--(Acts, iv. 16.) The number of Christians in the city was already increased to 5000, “ and the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul.” Their followers still increasing rapidly, the whole of the apostles were seized and imprisoned, but were immediately set free by divine power ;-the council were prevented froin taking the most violent measures against them, by one of their own number, who cautioned them saying, “Refrain from these men, and let them alone ; for if this work be of man, it will come to nought; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it."-(Acts, v. 38, 39.)
The Christians now becoming a very considerable body at Jerusalem, and sharing their property in common for their mutual support, the apostles found the charge of those concerns interfered too much with their religious duties. They therefore desired the congregation to choose persons from among themselves, called deacons, to take charge of this particular office, saying, "we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” Seven persons were therefore appointed, upon whom the apostles devoutly laid their hands, by way of solemn and public designation of them to their office.
St. Stephen, the principal of these, “ being full of faith and power, did great wonders among the people, insomuch that his enemies were not able to resist the wisdom, and the Spirit with which he spake.”-(Acts, vi. 8.) He became the first martyr to the faith of Christ; for while he was preaching in the Synagogue with his usual zeal he was seized, and being dragged out of the city, was stoned to death. A furious persecution followed against the Christians, and they were scattered abroad, but continued nevertheless to preach the word wherever they came, so that the very persecutions which they endured promoted the dispersion of the true faith.
Among the keenest enemies of the Christian church at this time, was Saul, who, as God ordained, afterwards became his most distinguished minister, in preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles; in which character he is better known to us by the name of St. Paul. In the 9th chapter we read the account of his miraculous conversion to Christianity; and from that time forward he promoted the interests of Christ's religion with unexampled zeal and success. The faith spread around, through
the whole country of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria ; and St. Peter is represented as “passing through all quarters," extending the benefits of the Gospel, (Acts ix. 32)—the Christians having at this time a respite from the fury of their enemies. But Herod once more renewed the cruel oppressions against them, and put to death St. James, the brother of John the Evangelist; he seized Peter also, but this apostle was saved from his vengeance by a miraculous release from prison.
Herod soon after was visited with a dreadful death as a punishment for his wickedness."-(Acts, xii.)
The Jews having, until the coming of Christ, enjoyed the peculiar distinction of receiving the communications of the Almighty, were naturally very unwilling to admit the Gentiles (that is the rest of the world) to share with them these holy gifts of the Spirit. Such of them as were converted to Christianity still kept those notions, notwithstanding the frequent declarations of Christ, that he came to deliver the knowledge of eternal life to the whole world, though it was to be first offered to the Jews. Even the apostles themselves seem
to have held the same opinion, until the miraculous conversion of St. Paul, for the declared purpose of preaching to the gentiles; and the remarkable vision given to St. Peter, related in the 10th chapter, convinced them of the general acceptance of Jews and Gentiles alike. Paul and Barnabas being by Divine authority separated for this especial service, (Acts, xiii. 2)—travelled into Upper Asia, teaching the faith at Antioch, Cyrene, and other cities, prevailing on great numbers to join the true religion. Considerable doubts were still held by some, however, as to the lawfulness of giving up the rites and ceremonies of the law of Moses. The matter was therefore referred to a general meeting of the Christian apostles and elders at Jerusalem, when St. Peter, addressing the assembly, at last put an end to their doubts by saying, “Men and brethren, ye know that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles, by my mouth should hear the word of the Gospel and believe, and God, who knoweth the heart, bare them witness; giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us, and put no difference between them and us, purify