Imágenes de páginas

and wrought by him to produce those astonishing effects. And we, his apostles, are witnesses of all things which he did both in the whole region of the Jews, and particularly in Jerusalem; for we attended him in all the progress which he 'made, beholding his miracles, and hearing his discourses : whom, nevertheless, this ungrateful people slew, hanging upon a tree and crucifying him, as if he had been the vilest of malefactors and slaves. Yet this very person, though so injuriously treated by men, hath the ever blessed God raised up from the dead on the third day, according to repeated predictions; and, as a demonstration of the truth of it, hath given him to become manifest after his resurrection, and evidently to appear, not indeed, to all the Jewish people, nor to retura to those public assemblies of them which he had often visited, but to certain witnesses who were before appointed by God for this purpose, even to us who conversed very intimately with him before his death, and were so far favoured, that we have eaten and drank together with bim several times after he rose from the dead; so that we can, and do, with the greatest certainty, bear witness to the truth of this important fact. And he hath given in charge to us to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation by him to the people ; and to testify, wherever we come, that it is. he, this very Jesus of Nazareth, who is the person appointed by God to be, the judge, in the great day, both of the living and the dead, who shall all be convened before his throne, and receive their final sentence from his lips. To him all the Jewish prophets bear witness ; so that, from what they foretold concerning him, it appears, that every one who believeth on him, shall receive the forgiveness of their sios by his name, though their criines be attended with aggravations ever so heinous. :

While Peter was yet speaking these words, the Holy Spirit, without the imposition - of the apostle's hands, fell upon Cornelius, and upon all bis friends that were hearing

the word. And all they of the circumcision who believed, as many as came with Peter upon this occasion, were exceedingly astonished to see that the miraculous and impor: tant gift of the Holy Spirit, which they supposed' peculiar to the Jewish nation, was poured out upon the Gentiles also, who, as they imagined, could not have been admitted into the church without receiving circumcision, and so subjecting themselves to the observation of the whole Mosaic law : but now they found it was incontesto ably evident, that even those who were not circumcised might be partakers with them of the highest privileges ; for they heard them all speaking in divers languages which they had never learned, and glorifying God for the rich display of his grace by the gospel in such exalted sentiments and language, as abundantly proved their minds, as well as their tongues, to be immediately under a divine operation. Then Peter, yielding to the force of evidence, however contrary to his former prejudices, with great propriety answered, can any one reasonably forbid that water should be brought, or offer to insist upon the cominon prejudice that has prevailed among us, that these persons should not be baptized in the name of our Lord Jesus, and solemnly received into his church, who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?; , And as none of the brethren that came with him pretended to object any thing against it; he immediately ordered them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, choosing to make use of the ministry of his brethren in performing that rite, rather than to do it with his own hands, that by this means the expression of their consent night be the more explicit. And, being thus received into the church, they had so high value for the conversation of this divine messenger, and for the joyful tidings which hc brought them, and were so earnestly desirous to be further instructed in that faith, into the general profession of which they were baptized, that they intreated hias ta continue with them scýeral days, and omitted nothing in their power to make hig, abode agreeable, as well as useful.


with Pelatile converts." The descent

Iso repentanction of his rich

• Tbus Cornelius and his friends were initiated into the Christian religion, as was related above; and Peter abode with them awhile at Cæsarea, to coufirm them in the faith they had embraced. But, in the nean time, the apostles and other brethren who were in Judea, heard, in the general, that the uncireumcised Gentiles also had received the word of God, and had been baptized, which very much alarmed them, as they were not informed in all the particular circumstances attending that affair. The apostle Peter, therefore, found it necessary to defend himself in a set speech, in which he related the circumstances of the vision, of the message sent by Cornelius, of the visit which he paid in consequence of that message, and especially of the descent of the floly Spirit, which preceded the baptism of the Gentile converts. And when they heard these things, they acquiesced in them with pleasure, and glorilied God for so wonderful a mauifestation of his rich grace, saying, God hath then given to the poor Gentiles also repentance unto life ; and has not only made them the overtures of it, but has graciously wrought it in some of their hearts.

It is now proper to mention some other circumstances relating to the cburch elsewbere. We obserse, therefore, that, during the transactions which have been before related, they who were dispersed from Jerusalem by the persecution which arose about Stepben, after they had gone through Judea and Samaria, travelled as far as Phænicia, ao Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word of the gospel to none but the Jews, jot being at all apprehensive that the Gentiles were to sliare the blessings of it. But some of them who bore a part in this work were men that were natives of the islaud of Cyprus, and of the province of Cyrene in Africa, who, having beard the story of Peter's receiving Cornelius, though a Gentile, into the communion of the church, tonk occasion from thence to imitate his example ; and, having entered into Autioch, spake freely to the Greeks as well as to the Jews, preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus to them, and inviting them to accept of its invaluable privileges, And the hand of the Lord was remarkably with them in this pious labour'; and a goeat pumber of the Gentiles were so effectually convinced and wrought upon by their discourses and miracles, that they believed and turned unto the Lorrl Jesus, consecrating themselyes to the service of God through him, with the most humble dependance on his blood and grace. When this pleasing information was received at Jerusalein, the church in that city sent forth Barnabas, a man of most exemplary character, amiable temper, and steady faith, to visit the brethren at Antioch, and strengthen their bands in the work of the Lord. His labours were eminently successful; as not only those were confirmed in their faith who had been already converted to the knowledge of God, but many others were made partakers of divine grace, and added by baptism to the church. Finding the work increasing upon his bands, he went to Tarsus in pursuit of Saul, with whom, as we have observed, he had been previously acquainted, and introduced him among the brethren at Antioch as one who was likely to be eminently useful in that city. And it came to pass that they continued there, and asseinbled at proper times in the church for a whole year, and taught considerable numbers of people. And the disciples were, as some suppose, hy diyine appointment, first named Christians at Antioch; a title that was really an honour to them, and was very well adapted to signify thcir relation to Christ as their common Lord, and their expectations from him as their Saviour. : The church at Antioch was about this time visited by certain prophets from Jerusalem, among whom Agabus was the most distinguished. Hle, standing up in their assemblies, signified, by the immediate direction of the Spirit, that therc should shortly be a great famine over all the land of Israel; a prediction which came to pass in the dapi of Claudius Cæsar. The brethren, therefore, determined op making a contri.

amiable temper. carcity sent forth pleasing information

thely to be and into dau), wit

butiva; voicn tiey did, and sent it to the elders of the church at Jerusalem, by the hands of those two able ministers, Barnahas and Saul. s .. i

About this time, Herod Agrippa, a prince who was very desirous of obtaining the favour of the Jews, commenced a persecution against such of the Christians as resided

vithin bis dominions. As Janes, the brother of John, was one of the most zealous - of the apostles, he put him to death; causing him to be executed with the sword,

in order that he might thus strike a terror into the rest, and induce them to desist from their attempts to propagate the gospel. Eusebius, from a book of Clemens Alexandrinus, which is now lost, tells us, that the person who had accused James, when he observed the boldness with which he gave testimony to Christ, was suddenly couverted, and ackuowledged himself to be a Christian. As they were going to the place of exécution, he requested of James some token of his forgiveness ; 00 which; the apostle, after a moment's reflection, gave him his blessing and a kiss of peace. Thus both of them endured martyrdom at the same time, being beheaded by the same sword. :

However this might be, finding that the exertions for the propagation of the gospel were as vigorous as ever, he proceeded to apprehend Peter, and put him in prison, delivering him to the custody of four quaternions of soldiers, that is, to sixteen, consisting of four in each party, who were in relieve each other by turns. This Herod ordered for the greater security of so noted a person; intending, immediately after the passover, to bring him out to the people, to be made a spectacle to thein in what he should suffer, as Jesus, his Master, had been on the first day of unleavened bread: As the importance of so useful a life was well known to his Christian friends, earnest and continued prayer was made to God on his account, by the whole church at Jeru.. salem. And the event soon shewed that this, their earnest supplication, was not isi vain ; for when Herod was ready to have brought him out to execution, even that very night before he had designed to do it, Poter was quietly sleeping between two soldiers in full calmness and serenity of mind, though bound with two chains wbich joined each of his hands to one of the soldiers that lay on either side of him, in such a mapuer, that it was (humanly speaking) impossible he should have risen without immediately awaking them. And the other two guards, then on duty, stood centru before the door, and were keepiug the prison, that there might be po attempt of any kind made to rescue him, because he was looked upon as a person of great consequence: An astonishing deliverance was now effected; for an angel of the Lord presented himself on' a sudden, and a glorious light shone in the whole prison, dark and gloomy as it was ; and this hcavenly messenger was no sooner come, but, giving Peter a gentle blow on the side, he awoke him, saying, Arise quickly. And the same moment of tine both his chains fell off from his hands; yet the soldiers were, by a miraculous power, kept so fast asleen, that they were not at all alarmed by the noise of their fall. And the angel said to him, Gird thyself presently in the clothes thou hast on, tie thine inward garment about thee, and bind on thy sandals, that thou mayest walk out; and, accordingly, he did so. And he says to him farther, Throw thy mantle round thee, and follow me out." And Peter, going nut of the prison as he was guided by the angel, met with no opposition in his way, and followed him as he was ordered. And he was 80 astonished, that he did not know that what was done by the augel was true and real, but only supposed that he had seen a vision, as in some other instances he had done, And, passing through the first and second watch, where the guards were all asleep, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which, though it was a heav. gate, and very strongly fastened, yet was no hindrance in their way, but opened to them as of its own accord': and thus, going out into the city, they went together

through one street ; and immediately the angel, having donc all that was requisite for his deliverance, and set hiin at full liberty, departed from him on a sudden, and best him alone to go where he pleased. After a little time, he recollected in what part of the city he was walking, and found his way to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many Christians were gathered together, and were spending the night in prayer for his deliverance. Presenting himself among them, he filled them with joy and surprize ; and, after uniting with them in expressions of gratitude to God for this mercy, retired to another place, where, it is probable, he remained some time concealed from his enemies. , Not long, however, after this persecution, the reign of Herod was cut short, by an awful event, which we will proceed to relate. Herod went down from Judea to Cæsarea, a city which had been rebuilt by Herod the Great, and abode there for some tine. The inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon, a trading people, derived from his country a supply of corn, which their own would not produce in sufficient abundance, liaving incurred tho resentment of the king, made to him the most humbling concessions, through the intervention of Blastus, the king's chamberlain, and were happy in regaining his frieudship. In order to make this transaction as public as possible, upon a day which he had appointed for that purpose, Herod appeared in royal apparel, scared on his throne, and made an oration to the people. The flattering multitude answered, with a shout, It is the voice of a God, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because lie gave not God the glory; and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.

It will not be unpleasant to compare this account of the death of Herod with that which is given us by Josephus, the celebrated Jewish historian. In the third year of his reign over all Judea, Agrippa made a journey to Cæsarea, formerly known by the name of Straton's tower, where a great number of the nobility, and other persons of rank, as embled, from all parts of the province, to be present at a solemnity of games and shews, which he instituted in honour of Cæsar. Early in the morning of the second day of this festival, Agrippa went to the theatre, habited in a silver stuff, of so rich and singular a texture, that the eyes of the people were dazzled by the reflection, as the beams of the rising suu struck on it. The rays of light that cmited therefrom, appeared, to the vulgar, to have something divine in them, and inspired them equally with ideas of fear aud veneration ; and, on this occasion, a fawning crew. of contemptible flatterers extolled him as a deity, and, in a formal manner, entreated him to pardon the sins arising from their ignorance, when they thought he was a mere, mortal; whereas, they were now convinced that he was a being of superior rank, and something more than human.

Gratified in a bigh degree by this odious flattery, he sought not to suppress it, as he should have done ; but while, in the pride of his heart, he was contemplating on his superior dignity, and lifting his eyes towards heayen, he beheld an owl oser. his head, sitting on a rope, wbich he considered as the forerunner of mischief, as a similar circumstance had heretofore bren of good fortune : nor was he mistaken ; fer. he instantly felt a violent pain at his heart, and convulsions in his bowels. In the extremity of his torments, he addressed his surrounding friends, saying, “Now behold your god is sentenced, to death by this inevitable fåte! I shall prove the absurdity, and impiety of flattery; and, by my death, convince the world thai I am not immortal. The will of heaven be done! I have had no reason, during my life, to envy the happię ness of any prince existing ; but ambition has been my ruin."

He had no sooner spoken these words, than his pains increased to such a degrec, that it was necessary to remove him into the palace, and a rumour immediately spread:


o wwer, where a great number of the nahilik.

through the town that the king was at the point of death. Hereu pon, the people in general, men, women, and children, adopted the customary mode of clothing themselves in sackcloth, and united in prayers to God for the recovery of the king. Io the interim, Agrippa, who was in an apartment at the top of the palace, could not refrain from tears on seeing his mourning subjects - prostrate on the pavement below. His extreme pain continued unabated from that time to the end of five days, when he died, in the seventh year of his reign, and the fifty-fourth of his age. .

Having thus far traced the history of the primitive Christians, it is proper that we should here pause a little, to consider what were the doctrines in which they were instructed, and what was the discipline established among them. The former may be collected into a few simple articles, which we shall proceed to state, enumerating, after each of them, certain passages of scripture by which they are supported.

1. The whole race of men, as descended from fallen parents, are, by nature, in a state of utter depravity, of which (not to mention innumerable, other transgressions) they have given the most awful proofs : 'the Jews, by the crucifixion of Jesus Christ ; and the Gentiles, by the substituting the worship of idols instead of that of the great: Creator, who is blessed for ever. Acts yii. xvii. 22..30, Romans. i. ii iii. 1..20, v. 12..21, Ephesians. ii. 1..3.]

2. Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, the long expected Messiah, was given up to death by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of his father, that the scriptures might be fulfilled, and a sacrifice offered to take away. sin. Being delivered from the power of death, he was raised on the third day, presented himself alive to. many witnesses, and was finally received up into heaven, where he sitteth at the right hand of God, to plead the cause of his people, to dispense the gists of his Holy Spirit on his servants, and communicate the blessings of pardon and peace to all that diligently seek bim. He shall come a second time to judge the world in righteousness, and render to every man according to the transactions of his life. [Acts ii. 22..36, X, 34.. 43, 1 Cor. xv. I Thes. iv. 14..17 Heb. vii. 24..28, ix. x. 1..29, 1 John ii. 1, 2.]

3. As all men, beiog sinners, stand in need of salvation, so there is no other way of salvation, but by faith in the Lord Jesus Cbrist. Whosoever believes his gospel, is at peace with God, shall find all the troubles of this life tend uliimately to the augmentation of his happiness, has nothing to fear from death ; but, being delivered from everlasting punishment, shall enjoy a blessed eternity in the presence of God and his holy angels. His body shall be, on the last day, raised from the grave, in a new and more glorious form, like that of the body of our Redeemer. (Acts iv. 10.. 12, xvi. 31, Rom. v. viii. 1 Cor. iii. 11, Gal. ii. 14..21, ii. 1 John jji. 1, 2.]

4. They that are' sincere believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are made partakers of a new nature, disposition, or life, in consequence of which, their affections become fixed upon God, their lives are devoted to his service, and they, forsaking their former evil practices, diligently cultivate every duty. It is therefore incumbent upon husbands and wives, parents and cbildren, masters and servants, rulers and subjects, to conduct themselves, in every instance, as may the most effectually contribute to the benefit of each other. Yet no regard to earthly relations inay tempt us to abandon the cause of Christ, though in circumstances of the greatest danger or distress, por to violate even the least of his commands. (Rom. vi. xii. xiii. 2 Cor. vii. 1, Gal. v. 13..26, Ephes. v. vi. Col. iii. iv. 1..6,* 1 Thes, v. 1 Tim. vi. James i. 19..27,

1 Pet. ii, iii. iv. Rev. y. 9, 10, vii. 14, xiv. 4, 5.] ; Wherever the apostles went, as a respectable writer of the present day observes, they preached, and besought, and enjoined men to repent and believe it. When their.


render tom. He shall comunicate the blessings to dispense the gifte sitteth at the right

« AnteriorContinuar »