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of the death of the cruel writer, so that the humane Petronius was spared.
The time was come when Caligula, so long the terror and the destroyer of his fellow men, had to feel in his turn the anguish of a violent death. Cherea, a tribune of the Prætorian bands, who had often been ridiculed by the emperor on account of a natural weakness of voice, at length sought to stir up others who had been injured, to unite with him against the tyrant. All their names, however, would have been discovered, but for the firmness of a woman who was in the secret. As she was led to the rack, an instrument whereby the limbs of accused persons were dislocated, she trod upon the toe of one of the conspirators, in order to assure him that nothing should escape her lips; and though Cherea was appointed to superintend her torture, she said not a word whereby the plot could be discovered. Cherea resolved he would never again be the instrument of the tyrant's cruelty; and from that moment sought an opportunity to destroy him.
A few days afterwards Caligula was amusing himself at the public games, little thinking his foolish sport would so soon end. He appeared gayer than usual, and having caused some fruits and other rarities to bę scattered among the people, laughed at seeing the scramble for them. If he had had any friends left at this time, the report of the plot against his life would have reached his ears ; for it was the common subject of conversation. “What news ?” said one of the senators to another, as they were standing together near the emperor: “ This day will be represented the death of a tyrant,” was the reply. Soon after, one of the conspirators treacherously invited Caligula to retire to his luxurious bathing-place, telling him he would better enjoy the rest of the entertainment after this refreshment. Without suspicion, he passed into a covered gallery that led to the bath, and was met by Cherea, who plunged a dagger into his bosom, exclaiming, “ Tyrant, think of this.” Caligula struggled for life; but the other conspirators fell upon him, and he died after thirty wounds, A. D. 41.
Such scenes, the particulars of which it may be in general best not to dwell upon, are, alas ! common in history. Power, whether righteously or unrighteously used, is a dangerous possession in this evil world ; the holder of it, in the one case, often drawing forth the envy or rebellion, and in the other,
exciting the hatred and revenge of his fellow-men. And thus it will be, as long as it is lodged in the hands of sinful men, and exercised over such : but He, “whose right it is,” the Son of Man, to whom all power is given in heaven and in earth, will soon take to himself his great power and reign; and no established blessing can be expected upon earth till the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of Jehovah and of his anointed king.
It may be well to add here that, however tyrannical or iniquitous be the exercise of power, the Christian's place is never to resist it. The description of the just, given by the Holy Ghost, is, “ He doth not resist,” even when condemnation or death is his portion. It was in the reign of Nero that the apostle wrote, “ Whosoever resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God.” And again, “ Ye must needs be subject, not only for (fear of) wrath, but also for conscience' sake” (Rom. xiii). Whatever God permits, his children must be content to suffer; for, as Jesus said, his friends need not be afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
THE DOOR OF FAITH OPENED TO THE GENTILES.-CLAUDIUS,
EMPEROR. — REIGN OF HEROD AGRIPPA. —- WEAKNESS OF
CLAUDIUS.—CONQUEST OF BRITAIN. —MURDER OF CLAUDIUS. The close of Caligula's terrible reign of four years brings us to a very remarkable period in the history of the Church. Peter, who had been the Lord's appointed instrument in first opening the kingdom of heaven to the Jews, is now directed, in a vision, to open the kingdom of heaven to the Gentiles. He is taught that the difference formerly made between Jews and Gentiles is at an end, for all whom the Lord pleases to call; that both need the same cleansing, and that the hearts of both, being purified by faith in the same Saviour, are equally accepted with God (Acts x).
The Jews had hitherto always looked upon the Gentiles as common, or unclean, and considered themselves the peculiar and holy people of God; and it was difficult even for those who believed in Christ, and knew their salvation through Him, to
believe that any besides their own nation were to be sharers of their privileges, or to have a portion in their Messiah. Three times were these emphatic words repeated in the significant vision of Peter, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common :” and whilst he was in meditation over it, the Spirit bade him go with the messengers from Cæsarea, doubting nothing, for he had sent them. This was sufficient authority for the apostle; and he goes to the house of an uncircumcised Gentile, a centurion of the Italian band; it may be, even, one of the Prætorians; for they, as we have before noticed, were a chosen band of Italians. Cornelius was prepared by God to receive the instruction of Peter; for through grace he had been faithful to the light already given to him. He and his kinsmen and near friends, who were waiting to hear the words promised to them, were addressed by the apostle as those who already knew that peace was preached to the children of Israel by Jesus Christ, and how God had anointed him with the Holy Ghost and with power; so that he went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with him. Thus far they knew; and now Peter is sent to them to testify of the resurrection of Christ, and that he was ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead, with the all-important truth to them as Gentiles, that “ To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” And this blessed gospel was accompanied with the gift of the Holy Ghost to all who heard it; so that they spoke with tongues and magnified God, as the Jewish disciples had done on the day of Pentecost. And after God, who knoweth the hearts, had thus borne them witness, Peter at once says, “ Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized !” Could he indeed call that common which God had so manifestly cleansed ? therefore he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.
I have dwelt on these interesting circumstances, because they have a most important bearing on the whole of our future history. It was in this manner that God at first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people ; and in the same sovereign grace he continues, through the whole of this dispensation, taking out whom He will : and if it were not so, there would be no hope of salvation for any one whose eye rests on this page.
Henceforth, as writing the history of the world on scriptural
principles, the divisions made by Roman historians will not be suitable. We must speak of it, as it is spoken of by the Spirit of God, under these three great classes : “The Jews, the Gentiles, and the Church of God.”
In our next period, these classes are seen in strong contrast, and with the most marked distinctiveness. The Jews hating and resisting the Gentiles, and still more the Church of God. The Gentiles oppressing the Jews and the Church of God : and the Church of God acting in grace and patience both towards Jews and Gentiles.
The doing away of the grand distinction that had hitherto subsisted between Jew and Gentile, and their oneness as soon as they believed and were baptized into Christ, greatly astonished even the apostles and brethren in Judea ; and they questioned whether this really could be the Lord's mind : but when convinced by Peter's testimony that it was really so, they glorified God, saying, THEN HATH GOD ALSO TO THE GENTILES GRANTED REPENTANCE UNTO LIFE (Acts xi. 18).
When tidings soon after reached the Church at Jerusalem that a great number of the Greeks at Antioch had believed and turned to the Lord, through the preaching of the men who were scattered in the first persecution, they at once sent Barnabas to see them; and Barnabas sought the help of Paul, who had up to this period been labouring in a different sphere from that of the twelve : being a chosen vessel, filled as it were with the extraordinary grace of the risen Lord, an unexpected witness whose calling and apostleship was a surprise to those who were the Lord's apostles when he was on earth. Thus does the Lord ever delight to go beyond the expectations of his people, and to give exceedingly abundantly above all they can ask or think. When the chief apostles perceived that the Gospel of the Gentiles was committed to Paul, as the Gospel of the Jews was to Peter, and that their apostleship was by the same mighty power ; and when they perceived, moreover, the grace that was given to Paul, they gave to him and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship.
It was at Antioch, that city disgraced in history by the wickedness of the Syrian kings, and defiled by every form of iniquity, that these blessed fellow-labourers assembled with the church and taught many people ; and it was there that the disciples were first called Christians.
Some have supposed that, as it was usual among the Greeks to distinguish the disciples in the different schools of philosophy by the master's name, as the Epicureans, the Platonists, &c., so the name of Christians was given to the believers in Christ; and, as the disciples of a crucified master, it was an especial term of contempt. This name is only made use of in one other passage of Scripture (1 Peter iv. 16), “ If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” It was, therefore, in those days, and during nearly three centuries, a name that brought suffering and reproach; for the doctrine of the cross was, in the thoughts of the Gentiles, foolishness.
Before we pursue the history contained in the book of Acts, we must notice the chief events of general history at this period.
The successor of Caligula, A.D. 41, was his uncle Claudius, who had been only saved from the destruction that fell on so many members of the imperial family, because his weakness of mind and deformity of body served as an amusement to the cruel emperor and his court.
After Caligula's murder he hid himself in a corner of the palace, and being discovered by some soldiers was carried to the Prætorian camp, where he was immediately proclaimed emperor : as these licentious guards hoped they should be able to rule in his name. Claudius had no desire to reign ; but Herod Agrippa, who was still at Rome, tried to strengthen his mind for the office, and persuaded the senate to yield to the wishes of the Prætorians, whilst, on the other hand, he made the passive emperor pardon those who had opposed his election, and whom the soldiers wished to destroy.
Claudius was also ready to comply with the desire of the Jewish prince, in refusing all acts of worship : and, to reward him for the help received in this time of need, he added to his dominions all that had belonged to the elder Herod; so that the whole land was again one kingdom, and the Jews every where had a little season of quietness.
It was but a short calm after and before a terrible storm ; for, besides the late troubles at Alexandria, the Babylonian Jews, who had been a distinct and flourishing people for centuries, had experienced great calamities. Two Jewish youths, simply weavers by trade, had assumed supreme power in their district, and reigned almost as kings; but the natives of the province of