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ers to bis religion, the Jews had not the body to produce : but were obliged to meet the testimony of the apostles by an answer, not containing indeed any impoffibility in itself, but abfolutely inconsistent with the supposition of their integrity; that is, in other words, inconsistent with the supposition, which would resolve their conduct into enthusiasm.

CHA P. IX.

The Propagation of Christianity. In this argument, the first confideration is the fact ; in what degree, within what time, and to what extent, Christianity actually was propagated.

The accounts of the matter, which can be collected from our books, are as follows: A few days after Christ's disappearance out of the world, we find an assembly of disciples at Jerusalem, to the number of “ about one hundred and twenty ;'' which hundred and twenty were, probably, a little association of believers, met together, not merely as believers in Christ, but as personally connected with the apostles, and with one another. Whatever was the number of believers then in Jerufalem, we have no reason to be surprised that so small a company should assemble ; for there is no proof that the followers of Christ were yet formed into a fociety, that the society was reduced into any order, that it was at this time even understood that a new religion (in the sense which that term conveys to us) was to be set up in the world, or how the profesfors of that religion were to be distinguished from the rest of mankind. The death of Christ had left, we may suppose, the generality of his disciples in great doubt, both as to what they were to do, and concerning what was to follow.

This meeting was held, as we have already said, a few days after Christ's ascension ; for ten days after that event was the day of Pentecost, when, as our history relates, upon a signal display of divine agency attending the persons of the apostles, there were added to the society “ about three thousand souls.” C But here, it is not, I think, to be taken, that these three thoufand were all converted by this single miracle ; but rather that many, who were, before believers in Christ, became now profeffors of Christianity ; that is to say, when they found that a religion was to be established, a society formed and set up in the name of Christ, governed by his laws, avowing the belief in his mission, united amongst themselves and separated from the rest of the world by visible distinctions, in pursuance of their former conviction, and by virtue of what they had heard and seen and known of Christ's history, they publickly became members of it.

2 Acts i. 5.

b Acts ïi. ..

c Ib. ii. 45.

We read in the fourth chapter of the Aets, that soon after this, the number of the men," i. e. of the society openly profelling their belief in Christ, “ was about five thousand.” So that here is an increase of two thousand within a very short time. And it is probable that there were many, both now and afterwards, who, although they believed in Christ, did not think it necessary to join themselves to this fociety; or who waited to see what was likely to become of it. Gamaliel, whose advice to the Jewish council is recorded Acts iv. 34. appears to have been of this description ; perhaps Nicodemus, and perhaps also Jofeph of Arimathea. This class of men, their character and their rank, are likewise pointed out by St. John, in the twelfth chapter of his gospel, “ nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him ; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue : for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” Persons such as these, might admit the miracles of Christ, without being immediately convinced that they were under obligation to make a public profeffion of Christianity, at the risk of all that was dear to them in life, and even of life itself.b

a Verse 4.

b “ Beside those who professed, and those who rejected and opposed Christianity, there were, in all probability, multitudes between both, neither perfect Christians, nor yet unbelievers. They had a favourable opinion of the gospel, but worldly confiderations made them un. willing to own it. There were many circunstances which inclined them to think that Christianity was a divine revelation, but there were many inconveniences which attended the open profefbon of it ; and they could not find in themseives courage enough to bear them, to disoblige their friends and family, to ruin their fortunes, to lose their reputation, their liberty and their life, for the sake of the new Icligion. Therefore they were willing to hope, that if they endeav. b li. vi. 1. c Vide Pearson's Antiq. l. xviii. c. 5. Benson's Hift. of Christ. book i. p. 148.

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Christianity, however, proceeded to increase in Jerusalem by a progress equally rapid with its first success; for, in the nextí chapter of our history, we read that “believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.”

And this enlargement of the new society appears in the first verse of the succeeding chapter, wherein we are told,

that " when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose e murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected;"b and, afterwards in the same chapter, it is declared expressly, that “the number of the disci; les multiplied in Jerusalem greatly, and that a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”

This I call the first period in the propagation of Christianity. It commences with the ascension of Christ ; and extends, as may be collected from incidental notes of time, tu something more than one year after that event. During which term the preaching of Christianity, so far as our documents inform us, was confined to the fingle city of Jerusalem. And how did it fucceed there? The first affembly which we meet with of Christ's disciples, and that a few days after his remoral from the world, consisted of “ one hundred and twenty.” About a week after this three thousands were added in one day; and the number of Christians, publickly baptized, and publickly associating rogether, were very soon increased to "fve thousands.” “Multitudes both of men and women continued to be added :" “ dif. ciples multiplied greatly,” and “many of the Jewish priekthood, as well as others, became obedient to the faith ;' and this within a space of less than two years from the commencemerit of the inflitution.

By reason of a persecution raised against the church at Jerus salem, the converts were driven from that city, and dispersed throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.d Wherever they oured to observe the great precepts of morality, which Christ had represented as the principal part, the sum and lubstance of religion ; if ihey thought honourably of the gospel, if they offered no injury to "the Chriftians, if they did them all the fervices that they could jafely perform, they were willing to hope that God would accept this, and that he would excuse and forgive the rest." Jortin's Dil.on the Christ. Rel. p. 91. ed. 14,

d Ib. viii. . W

a Ib. v. 14.

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came, they brought their religion with them ; for our historian informs us, that, “they that were scattered abroad, went every where, preaching the word." The effect of this preaching comes afterwards to be noticed, where the historian is led, in the course of his narrative, to observe, that then, (i. e. about three years pofterior to this “the churches had rest throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria, and were edified, and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” This was the work of the second period, which comprises about four years.

Hitherto the preaching of the gospel had been confined to Jews, to Jewish profelytes, and to Samaritans.

And I cannot forbear from setting down, in this place, an observation of Mr. Bryant's, which appears to me to be perfectly well founded : “The Jews still remain, but how seldom is it that we can make a single profelyte! There is reason to think, that there were more converted by the apostles in one day, than have fince been won over in the last thousand years.”

It was not yet known to the apoltles, that they were at liberty to propose the religion to mankind at large. That as mystery," as St. Paul calls it, d and as it then was, was revealed 10 Peter by an especial miracle. It appears to have been about seven years after Christ's afcenfion, that the gospel was preached to the Gentiles of Cesarea. A year after this, a great mula titude of Gentiles were converted at Antioch in Syria. The expressions employed by the historian are these" a great number believed and turned to the Lord;" “ much people was added to the Lord;" “ the apostles Barnabas and Paul taught much people.”f Upon Herod's death, which happened in the next year, 8 it is observed, that “the word of God grew and multiplied."h. Three years from this time, upon the preaching of Paul at Iconium, the metropolis of Lycaonia, “ a great multitude both of Jews and Greeks believed ;'i and afterwards, in the course of this very progress, he is represented as “making many disciples" at Derbe, a principal city in the same district. Three yearsk after this, which brings us to fixteen after the afa

a Ver. 4.

b Benson, b. I. p. 207.
c Bryant on the truth of the Christian Religion, p. 11%.

d Ephef. iii. 3-6. e Benson, b. II. p. 236.
i Ib. xi. 21, 24, 26.

& Benson, b. II. p. 289. i Ib, xiv, do Benfou's Hill, Chrift, b. III. p. 50

fs xii. 244

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tension, the apostles wrote a public letter from Jerufalem to the Gentile converts in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, with which letter Paul travelled through these countries, and found the churches « established in the faith, and increasing in number daily." From Afia the apostle proceeded into Greece, where, foon after his arrival in Macedonia, we find him at Thessaloni€a ; in which city “fome of the Jews believed, and of the devout Greeks

great

multitude.' We meet alfo here with an accidental hint of the general progress of the Christian million, in the exclamation of the tumultuous Jews of Thessalonica, " that they, who had turned the world upside down, were come thither also.” At Berea, the next city at which St. Paul arrives, the historian who was present, informs us that “ the Jews believed." The next year and half St. Paul's miniftry was spent at Corinth. Of his success in that city we receive the following intimations : " that many of the Corinthians bes lieved and were baptized,” and “that it was revealed to the apostle by Christ, that he had much people in that city.' in less than a year after his departure from Corinth, and twenty-five years after the ascension, St. Paul fixed his station at Ephesus, for the space of two years and something more. The effect of his ministry in that city and neighbourhood, drew from the historian a reflection, "So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed:”! And at the conclusion of this period, we find Demetrius at the head of a party, who were alarmed by the progrefs of the religion, complaining, that "not only at Éphefus, but alfo throughout all Afia, i. e. the province of Lydia; and the country adjoining to Ephesus) this Prul hath perfuad ed and turned away much people."i Befide these accounts, there occur, incidentally, mention of converts at Rome, Alexandria, Athens, Cyprus, Cyrene, Macedonia, Philippi.

This is the third period in the propagation of Christianity, setting off in the seventh year after the afcenfion, and ending at the twenty-eighth. Now, lay these three periods together, and observe how the progress of the religion by these accounts is represented. The institution, which

properly began only after its author's removal from the world, before the end of thirty years, has spread itself throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria, almost

a Xvi..so
B xvii. 4.
c Ib. v. 6.

d xvii. 12. c Ib. xviii. 8-10.

f Benson, b. III. p. 160. & Acts xix, 10.

b xix. 20.

i Ib. v. 26

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