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Christianity, possessing authority to confer them. From this circumstance the ancient Church confined the power of confirming to the Bishops, as the successors of the Apostles, in those ordinary acts of authority, which they considered essential to all Christian Churches. When the provinces of Judæa were thus Christianized, the time for appealing to the Jews, and the Proselytes of Righteousness, (among whom was the treasurer of Queen Candace,) appears to have come to its proper termination. The Gospel of St. Matthew was probably now written for the use of the scattered coma munities; and the Pauline persecution is unexpectedly terminated by the sudden interposition of Divine Providence, in the conversion of its principal agent. This event is related in the thirty-first section.
In the note to the thirty-first section, I have briefly considered the inferences which have been sometimes deduced from the history of St. Paul's conversion, that no man can be a Christian, who does not experience some miraculous change or interposition of a similar nature. It must be remembered, that St. Paul was not the chief of profligates, but chief of the opponents of the Gospel. This is the proper meaning of his appellation, “the chief of sinners.” It is more than questionable, whether the sudden demonstration of the truth of Christianity, which was now enforced on the mind of St. Paul, as the very best and most unsuspicious agent, by whom Christianity might be dispersed with the most effect, can be considered as an argument in favour of the doctrine of the sudden conversions of educated Christians, who are acquainted from their infancy with the Scriptures, and know why Christ rose from the dead.
With the preaching of St. Paul, the miracles of St. Peter, and the repose of the Churches, this chapter terminates. I have considered, at some length, the doctrine and government of the church at Jerusalem, the model for all succeeding Churches. I have devoted some time to this point, because an attentive perusal' of the Holy Scriptures alone: has convinced me, that Jesus Christ is the Lawgiver of nations, as well as the Saviour of individuals. My Bible, my only religion, has taught me, that Christ descended from heaven, neither to form separate congregations of good and devotional individuals—nor to unite the world under one ecclesiastical domination. He came to make every separate kingdom one great religious family, and thus to extinguish over the whole earth, wars abroad, and factions at home, and all political evils, of what kind soever, by religious peace, and mutual love. God wills the present, as well as the • future happiness of man: and Christianity, rightly under-, stood, is the only means by which the divine object will, eventually be accomplished.
X. The time had now fully come, in which the exclusive appeal to the Jews was to cease, and the new dispensation to begin ; when the Gospel was to be preached to other nations. This chapter includes the period between the vision of St. Peter, which announced the enlargement of the Church, and the mission of St. Paul to the idolatrous Gentiles. The vision of St. Peter was the commencement of the fulfilment of our Lord's prophecy, “On this rock I will build my Church.” The dissertation of Bernard Duysing, in the Critici Sacri, on this subject, is exceedingly curious. Some extracts are given from it in the note, together with the interpretation of Jones of Nayland.
A discussion arose between some distinguished theologians in the last century, on the Proselytes of the Jews. The first Lord Barrington adopted and learnedly defended the usual opinion, that in addition to the Proselytes of Righteousness, who engaged to fulfil the whole law of Moses, there was also another class, who professed their belief in the God of the Jews, but who did not bind themselves by the more burthensome ceremonial. Dr. Doddridge and Dr. Lardner, and, on the authority of their arguments, Dr. Hales, have differed from Lord Barrington, and assserted the existence of the former Proselytes only. Michaelis, Dr. Graves, Selden,
Witsius, Spencer, Schoetgen, Lightfoot, and others, to whom reference is made in the first note, support the opinion of Lord Barrington, though they have not noticed the controversy. I have adopted the general supposition. The existence of a large class of persons of the same description as Cornelius, who should receive the new religion before it was preached to the idolaters of the surrounding country, appears to have been a wise provision for the continuance of that gradual and silent progress, by which Christianity was to be extended through the world. '
The new dispensation was not at first generally received. The converts, who were scattered from Jerusalem by the Pauline persecution, preached to the Jews only. The Church at Jerusalem was astonished at the intelligence, that the Proselytes of the Gate were to be admitted into the Church; and they commissioned Barnabas to make inquiry. Saul, who seems to have been now merely a private, though eminent teacher, is associated with him; and, on their arrival at Antioch, which may be called the first metropolis of the Christian cities, the adherents of the new religion are called by the now most honourable of all human appellations. Many have been of opinion, that the title of Christian was given by divine appointment. It seems probable that some designation was necessary to distinguish the Christians from the Jews, with whom they were at first identified.
Now that the new religion had become so firmly established, that it embraced another large class of persons, the lives of the Apostles ceased to be essential to the existence of the rising Church. They consequently became subject to the plans of their enemies. One of them was put to death : the rest appear to have been scattered from Jerusalem; and the power, which had at first been common to them all, was concentrated in one, who was left at Jerusalem, in the tiine of the greatest danger, to protect and govern the Church.
I have considered, at greater length than was perhaps necessary, the opinion that St. Peter, after his miraculous
escape rom prison, was sheltered at Rome. Many Protestant writers have asserted that he was never in that city. The evidence appears to be more favourable to the other supposition ; and it is probable that St. Mark's Gospel was now written under the inspection, or at the dictation of St. Peter. The perversion of the Romanist theologians on the subject of St. Peter's residence at Rome, is well known, The supremacy of St. Peter is a fiction; it is the Upas tree of Christianity; it has poisoned the fairest shrubs and flowers in the garden of the Church. It has changed the peaceful religion of the mild and holy Saviour, into a series of political controversies; from which have originated civil wars, alienations of princes from their people, and of people from their princes—and all the civil commotions which have prevented the progress of Christianity; which have given its principal triumph to infidelity, and every where degraded religion. If the blundering interpreters, who have assigned this imaginary supremacy to St. Peter, had granted it to St. Paul, they would have been more able to defend their folly. St. Peter was the minister of the circumcision, St. Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles, of whom the Romans were the chief; and he openly reproved St. Peter for the conduct which he thought worthy of censure.
The remainder of this chapter relates the continued increase of the Churches, till the actual appointment of St. Paul to the mission to which he had been so long designated.
XI. We now arrive at the dispensation under which we ourselves live, when the Gospel was preached to the idolatrous Gentiles. In consequence of his divine appointment, St. Paul received the sanction of the heads of the Church at Antioch, to his mission, and became their Apostle. This chapter contains the account of his first apostolical journey. The principal points considered in the notes to this chapter are—the similarity between the service of the synagogue and that of the early Church-the question of predestina
tion-the apostolical decree--and the nature of the spiritual gifts, titles, and offices in the Church of Antioch. Vitringa, who was both a theorist and a zealous presbyterian, has endeavoured to establish the identity of the early Church government with that of the synagogue. I have pointed out various instances in which the supposed parallel entirely fails. If indeed it could be shewn to be complete, the similarity would prove nothing with respect to the question concerning Episcopacy. As the Jewish synagogues were under the controul of the heads of their religion at Jerusalem, while each congregation might possibly have some observances peculiar to itself; so also the Christian Churches were never independent of the apostolical authority, though each might perhaps vary in certain non-essential particulars. .
XII. The twelfth chapter contains an account of the second apostolical journey of St. Paul. Observant of our Lord's direction, that his Evangelists should not go out alone, because " in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word was to be established,” the Apostle, having chosen Silas, after his separation from Barnabas, proceeds on his journey with Timothy, whom he met with on his arrival at Derbe. Our Lord's promise, that his Apostles should possess authority over all the power of the enemy, was fulfilled at Philippi. In a former part of the Arrangement, the opinions respecting demoniacal possession are considered at some length. The case of the Pythoness at Philippi appears to afford additional evidence in support of the general opinion, that the instances mentioned in Scripture must be literally interpreted.
In the tenth section of this chapter we come to the first of those most important portions of the inspired writings, the Epistles of Paul. As no part of the Scriptures have been more frequently misinterpreted than these Epistles, I have endeavoured to submit to the reader, at the head of each Epistle, a brief statement of the proposition which St. Paul intended to establish; and so to analyse the Epistle itself. that the nature of the arguments, by which that proposition