« AnteriorContinuar »
bis disciples with water, he would baptize both them and their converts with the Holy Ghost. [Acts i. 5.] For John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
" Haying thus spoken, he led them out of the town to the mount of Olives; and being come to that part of the mountain which was above Bethany, the apostles, whose minds were still full of the temporal monarchy, asked him if he would now • restore the kingdom to Israel. [I.uke xxiv. 50.] And he said unto them, it is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath puf in his own power. It will not be of any use to you in your work to kpow the times or the seasons of the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. Besides, this is one of the things which the Father hath thought fit to conceal from mortals in the abyss of his omniscience. This only is of iniportance to you to know, that you shall receive miraculous powers after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and that by these powers you shall bear witness unto me with great success, unt only at Jerusalem, and in all Judea, aod in Samaria, but unto the uttermost part of the earth. [Acts i. 8.) But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you ; and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Juden, and in Samaria, and unto the. uttermost part of the earth. Moreover, he told them that he was now raised to the government of heaven and earth ; for which reason, they might go courageously through the wbole world, and preach the gospel to every reasonable creature, well assured that affairs, in all countries, should be so ordered, as to dispose the inhabitants for the reception of the gospel. [Mat. xxviii. 18, 19.] And he spake unto theni, saying, all power is given me in heaven and in earth. Goʻre, therefore, and teach all nations(Mark, preach the gospel to every creature.) withal, those who helieved in coosequence of their preaching, he appointed to be received into his church by the rite of baptism, and be taught to obey all the precepts he had enjoined them-baptizing them in the nanie of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. [ 20.7 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. Such baptiz ed believers, he assured them, should receive the pardon of their sins, together with eternal life ; but tbose who did not believe and obey the gospel when preached to them, should be damned. [Mark xvi. 16.) He that believeth and is baptizcd shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And to encourage them in the great and difficult work which he now assigned to them, he promised that, wbile they were employed in it, he would be with them and their successors in the ministry to the end of the world, to guide them by his counsel, to assist them by his Spirit, and to protect their by his providence. ]Mat. xxviii. 20.] And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
« Finally, that those who through their preaching were induced to helieve, should themselves work most astonishing miracles ; a circumstance which should contribute greatly towards the spreading of the gospel. Nay, he mentioned the particular miracles which they should be enabled to perform. (Mark xvi. 17.) And these signs shall follow them that believe : in my name shall They cast out devils ; they shall speak with new tongues ; [18.] They shall take up serpents ; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
• When he had spoken these things, he lift up his hands, and blessed them; and, in the action of blessing them, he was parted from them in oren day-light, perhaps, about mid-day, a bright cloud receiving him out of their sight, that is, covering him about, and carrying him into heaven, not suddenly, but at leisure, that they might hehold him departing, and see the proof of his having come down from heaven, wbich
neon the Lord,icht and pure inah, or visible mich filled the theory
he promised them, John xvi. 28. Two angels stood by them, who, though they had assuined the form and garb of men, were, by the majesty and splendour of thieii appearance, known of the apostles to he angels : for, as Christ's resurrection had been honoured with the appearance of angels, it was vatural to think that his ascension into heaven would be so likewise. [Acts i. 11.) Which also said, ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? (it seems, they looked up stedfastly after he was gone out of sight, expecting, perhaps, to see him come down again immediately) this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. He shall come in the same glorious manner in which you wave now seen him ascend. The angels spake of his coming to judge the world at the last day, a description of which Jesus in his life-time had given. (Mat. xvi. 27.] " For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels." Wherefore, tbe cloud whereon the Lord now ascended, being the same with that in which he is to come again, was more bright and pure than the clearest lambent flame ; for it was the glory of the Father, that is, the Schechinah, or visible symbol of the divine presence, which appeared to the patriarchs in antient times, which filled the temple at its dedication, s2 Chron. vii. 3.] and which, in its greatest splendour, cannot be beheld with mortal eyes; so, for that reason, is called the light inaccessible, in which God dwells. (I Tim. vi. 16.] It was on this occasion, probably, that our Lord's body was changed, acquiring the glories of immortality, perhaps, in the view of the disciples, who looked at their Master all the time he was mounting. [Acts i. 10.] As he ascended up into the skies, the flaming cloud which surrounded him, leaving a ' track of light behind it, marked his passage through the air, but gradually Inst its magnitude in the eyes of them who stood below; till, soaring high, he and it vanished out of their sight'; for he was received up where the deity manifests himself in a peculiar manner. [Mark xvi. 19.] And sat on the right hand of God; that is, in his human nature, was advanced in dignity next to the divine Majesty, all power in heaven and earth being given him: and this universal government he will hold till he fully establishes the dominion of righteousness, when he will deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father, that God may be all in all.”
In this illustrious manner did the Saviour depart, after having finished the grand work which he came down upon earth to execute; a work which God himself, in the remotest eternity, contemplated with pleasure ; which angels and superior matures, with joy, descried as to happen; which, through all eternity to come, shall, at periods the most immensely distant from the time of its execution, be looked back, upon with inexpressible delight by every inhabitant of heaven. For though the little affairs of time may vanish altogether, and be lost, when they are removed far back by the endless progression of duration, this object is such, that no distance, however great, can lessen it. The kingdom of God is erected upon the incarnation and sufferings of the Son of God, the kingdom and city of God comprehending all the virtuous beings, that are in the universe, made happy by goodness and love; and therefore none of ihem can ever forget the foundation on which their happiness stands firmly established. In particular, the human species, recovered by this labour of the Son of God, will view their deliverer, and look back on his stupendous undertaking with high ravishmont, while they are feasting without interruption on its sweet fruits, over growing more delicious.
THE HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, FROM THE ASCENSION OF OUR LOND,
TO THE DEATH OF HEROD AGRIPPA.
The date of our Lord's crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension---the apostles return to
Jerusalem---how they employed their time---Matthias chosen apostle---the design of the feast of Pentecost---the Holy Spirit descends like tongues of fire---a concourse of stranyers at Jerusalem---Peter's first sermon; three thousand crnoerted---the community of goods---prosperity of the church---the healing of a lame man occasions the imprisonment of Peter and John, who are threatened and dismissed---increasing strength of the church---death of Ananias and Sapphira---the apostles having been imprisoned and examined before the council, Gamaliel gives advice tending to moderation, and the apostles arc beaten and dismissed---seven deacons chosen---Stephen persecuted---his defence and death---the gospel preached in Samaria---Simon Magus---the eunuch of Ethiopia -- Saul's miraculous conversion---the churches enjoy peace---Eneas healed--a, Dorcas raised---Cornelius is converted, receives the Holy Spirit, and is admitted into the Christian church without circumcision--Peter defends his conduct ---the gospel preached at Antioch---Barnabas sent forth--- Agabus prophecies---Hernd persecutes the Christians, slays James the Greater, imprisons Peter, is smitten of God, and dies--observations on the faith and order of the primitive churches.
So little attentive were the antient historians to fix the dates of the transactions they record, and so great was the inconvenience which they experienced for want of popuiar and established aras, that, in chronological enquiries, we must generally rest contented, if, instead of arriving at certainty, we are enabled to decide uron the most probable opinion. The precise year of the creation of the world, of the beginning and termination of ihe flood, of the call of Abraham, of the building of Solomon's "temple, of the laying the foundation of Rome, of the return from the Babylonian
captivity, of the birth of nur Savinur, of the commencement and duration of his ministry, are all of them subjects of dispute. It is, however, pretty generally admitted, that the great sacrifice was offered upon mount Calvary, on Friday, the third of April, in the year A. D. 33, in the four thousand, seven hundred, and forty-sixth year of the Julian period ; in the four thousand and fortieth year from the creation of the world ; in the two thousand, three hundred, and eighty-fourth, from the conmencement of the deluge; in the twn thousand and thirty-second from the birth of Ahraham; in the fifteen hundred and twenty-fourth from the publication of the ten commando ments ; in the ten hundred and forty-fifth from the erecting of Solomon's temple; in the seven hundred and eighty-fifth from the building of Rome ; in the six hundred and thirty-nipth from the first Babylonish captivity ; in the three hundred and fiftysixth from the death of Alexander ilie Great ; in the seventy-third froin the beginning of the reign of the first Herod ; in the thirty-seventh from the birth of Christ, in tbe thirty-sixth from the death of Herod; in the twenty-second of the reign of Tiberius with Augnstus ; in the nineteenth of the reign of that emperor alone; and in the seventh year from the commencement of the ministry of John the Baptist. On thesc principles, it appears, that the resurrection took place late on Saturday, the fourth, or early on Sunday, the fifth of April; and that our Lord ascended into his glory, either on Wednesday, the thirteenth, or, as is more generally supposed, on Thursday, the fourteenth, of May.
The apostles, having witnessed the ascension of our Lord, returned with great joy to Jerusalem, a walk of about seven furlongs. Here they divided their time, between the temple, which they regularly attended at the stated hours of public devotion, and a large upper room, where they assembled together for the purpose of offering up uuto God continual supplications and prayers. Among the most regular attendants at this place of sacred retirement, were the eleven apostles, Mary the mother of our Lord, and those near relations of his who are denominated his brethren ; and who, though they were formerly noted as not believing in his mission, appear to bave since been converted to the truth. ..
In one of those days which they thus spent in waiting for the promise of the Father, an hundred and twenty of them being collected together in this upper room, Peter arose, and, standing in the midst of the disciples, addressed them to the following effect : Men and brethren, cqually united by the ties of religion and of friendship, it was necessary that this passage of scripture should receive a fulfilment, which David, moved by the prophetic Spirit of God, delivered in the sixty-ninth and hundred and nioth Psalms, concerning Judas, who betrayed his Master with a kiss, a.id was guide to those who led him away to judgment and to death. His dreadful crime and calamitous end must be fresh in the recollection of every hearer ; for he was formerly numbered among us, the apostles, and obtained a lot in this holy and important ministry. This man, as you all recollect, occasioned the purchase of a field with the reward of his iniquity, by casting it down in the temple, and refusing to take it again; and, by some accident, after having hanged himself, fell violently with his face on the ground, burst asunder in the midst, and poured forth his bowels on the spot. This fact, the historian observes, could not be reasonably doubted, since it was well known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem ; and they, in memory of the shocking event, denominated the piece of land which was thus purchased, Aceldama, or the field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms, Ict his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein ; which was admirably fulfilled by the purchasing with the wages of his iniquity, not a garden, or dwelling-place for the living, but a buryingground for the dead; and it is added in another passage, and his bishoprick let another take : his office of overseer in the kingdom of God. Wherefore, of these men who are now present among us, and have associated with us during the whole of our Lord's ministry, including that of his forerunner, must one be chosen to bear witness, in the apostolic character, to the resurrection of the Son of God from the dead. The assembly consented to the proposal; and, after mature deliberation, fixed upon two Candidates for this office ; Joseph, who was denominated Justus, from the integrity of his life; and a person no less eminent for his piety, who was wamed Matthias. They then solemnly addressed the all-secing God, and intreated him that, boing ac.
9. Cled him away to jure collection of every 1 in this holy and imith the
in the aplaistry, including us, and havngdom of Godge, and his might but bur
seven Wellan the old appear
nted with the secrets of all hearts, he would indicate who was most fit for the apostolic office, by regulating the fall of that lot which they were then going to cast. Having, therefore, given forth the lot, it fell upon Matthias, who was immediately added to the number of the eleven apostles.
Nothing further of sufficient importance to be recorded occurred till the arrival cf the feast of Pentecost. This solemnity derives its name from the greek word pentekostos, fiftieth, because held fifty days after the passover. It was observed by the Jews in commemoration of the en unciation of the law to Moses, fifty days after the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt. This was the second of the three grand festivals in the ecclesiastical year, at which all the males were enjoined to appear before the Lord at the national altar. It is called by several names in the Old Testamcut ; as the feast of weeks, because it was celebrated seven weeks, or a week of weeks, after the passover, or rather, after the first day of unleavened bread; the feast of harvest, according to Mede and Bochart, because, as the harvest hegun at the passover, 'it ended at Pentecost ; .or, according to others, because at this feast the firstfruits of their wheat-harvest were brought and offered to God; and, for the same reason, it was denominated the feast of first-fruits.
When the day of Pentecost was fully, come, or, as the Syriac renders it, when the days of Pentecost were fulfilled, on the morning of the fiftieth day after the passover, which corresponded to Sunday, the twenty-fourth of May, they, that is, probably, the hundred and twenty disciples, with the women, were all, in the unity of the Spirit; met together in the same place, the large upper room to which they had been accuse tomed to resort. While they were sitting here, a sound was heard from heaven as: of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the whole room with its astonishing effects. : While they were filled with wonder at this supernatural event, bright flames of a pyramidical form, which were so divided at the points as to present the appearance of cloven tongues, were seen to rest one upon each of their heads who were at this time' assembled together. : Immediately they felt themselves filled with the inspiration of God, and enabled to speak with languages which they had never acquired by human education. Beginning to exercise these miraculous gifts, the room appeared agitated with an unaccountable confusion ; and, being overheard by their neighbours, a report was soon spread, that something very extraordinary had happened to the sectaries of Galilee:
There were at this time sojourning at Jerusalem, either as fixed inhabitants of the city, or as strangers, collected for the purpose of celebrating the annual feasts, devout men from almost every region of the habitable globe. These, having heard the report, ran together with the rest of the multitude, and were confounded ; because that every one in the assembly heard some one or other of the disciples speaking, not only in his own language, but in that particular dialect of it which he had learnt from his infancy. Astonished beyond measure at this miracle, as all must be who consider its extent, they inquired eagerly one of another, whether all these that spake were not Galileans as well by country as by religion. How then, said they, does every one of us hear them speaking in our native languages: the wonderful works of God? In this multitude of strangers, there were Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, nations inhabiting different provinces of modern Persia ; the dwellers between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, whom some suppose to be of the remnant of those Israelites who were carried away captive hy the kings of Assyria, and are usually denominated the nine tribes and a half. Here were also natives of Judea, where the dialect was se different from that of Galilee, that Peter was charged, on that ground, with being a disciple of Jesus Christ. To these are to be added the natives of Cappadocia, and Pontus,