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ing their hearts by faith.” (Acts, xv. 7. 8, 9.)This important point being settled, letters by divine command were written to the distant churches, to acquaint them with their determination, and the Christian ministry was carried on with increased zeal in every quarter; St. Paul and his companions extending their journeys into Europe, preached the Gospel at Athens, Corinth, and other great cities, and everywhere gained over great numbers to the faith. The success of these exertions in the great cause of Christianity was amazing. “God wrought especial miracles by the hands of Paul, so that from his body were brought unto the sick, handkerchiefs, or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.” He was even permitted to bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost on certain disciples; ."and laying his hands on them, they spake with tongues and prophesied.” (Acts, xix. 6.)
In the 21st chapter we are informed that after performing these great services for the increase of the Gospel, St. Paul returned to Jerusalem, knowing by prophecy he should there be seized by his
enemies. Immediately on his arrival the chief priests got hold of him, and when his life was in the greatest hazard, he was taken under the protection of the Governor, as he claimed the privileges of a Roman citizen. He nevertheless suffered a tedious confinement; and at last, being allowed to defend himself, he justified his conduct with great spirit, boldly maintaining the Christian faith before Festus and Agrippa, the rulers of the country, insomuch that the latter confessed, “ Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” And Paul said, “ I would to God that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am, excepting these bonds." Having appealed for justice to the Roman Emperor, he was sent, with other prisoners, to Rome; and in the 27th chapter of St. Luke gives a most interesting account of their voyage and shipwreck on the island of Malta, from which they providentially escaped, and at length reached the Roman capital.
St. Luke ends his history by informing us that St. Paul was allowed to enjoy his liberty under the guard of a soldier, and “ dwelt two whole
in his own hired house, and received all that came to him ; preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the LORD JESUS CHRIST, with all confidence, no man forbidding him." (Acts, xxviii. 30, 31).
In addition to these particulars concerning the progress of Christianity, much historical information may be gathered from the Epistles of St. Paul, and others of the Apostles, which follow this account of their acts.
These Epistles are twenty-one in number. The first fourteen are the work of St. Paul, and are addressed to the different societies of Christians in the cities of Rome and Corinth, in the province of Galatia, in the cities of Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, and Thessalonica. Three were written to his disciples and companions, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, when separated from him, in the service of the ministry; and the last is addressed to the Hebrews in general.
These letters were composed between the years 52 and 56, at various places, during his progress through those extensive countries in which he
preached the Gospel ;—to encourage the Christian converts to a zealous and steady attachment to their new Religion, and instruct them concerning those matters in which they had fallen into errors, or were likely to be misled through ignorance of the doctrines of CHRIST, or by the evil counsel of persons unfriendly to their faith.
Space will not permit us to go into an examination of each of these eloquent Epistles, which are all highly deserving of your best attention. It seems that St. Paul was a person of great talents and learning, even before he was so eminently gifted by the Holy Ghost. He became the great teacher of the Christian faith to the Gentiles, amongst whom he pursued the ministry with unwearied zeal, and with the most astonishing success, leaving to others of his brethren to preach the Gospel to the Jews. The uncommon hardships and persecutions he endured, are partly recounted in the history of St. Luke; and in the 11th chapter of his Second Letter to the Corinthians, he himself tells, in a few words, the severe sufferings he had undergone. St. Paul at length fell a
martyr to the glorious cause in which he had so warmly engaged, and so successfully persevered ; being beheaded about the year 65, during the great persecution of the Christians at Rome.
St. James, the author of the General Epistle which next follows, was the kinsman of our blessed Saviour, and is called in Scripture the brother of our LORD, to express his near relationship. He was placed, probably for this reason, at the head of the Christian Church at Jerusalem; from which place he sent forth this Epistle, addressed to the Hebrew Christians at large, about the year 61. He was put to death shortly after, in that city, in a tumult raised by the unbelieving Jews. He is called in the New Testament St. James the Less, to distinguish him from James, the brother of St. John the Evangelist, who, as related in the Acts of the Apostles, was destroyed in Herod's persecution of the Church. The Epistle of St. James is full of valuable instruction, plain and easy to be understood; and though originally addressed to the Jews, is applicable to all classes of Christians.
The two next Epistles are the work of St. Peter,