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all the numerous districts of the lefser Asia, through Greece, and the islands of the Ægean Sea, the fea-coalt of Africa, and! had extended itself to Rome, and into Italy. At Antioch in Syria, at Joppa, Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, Berea, Iconi-um, Derbe, Antioch in Pisidia, at Lydda, Saron, the number of converts is intimated by the expressions “a great number," "great multitudes,” “ much people.” Converts are mentioned, without any designation of their number, at Tyre, Cefarea, Troas, Athens, Philippi, Lystra, Damascus. During all this time, Jerusalem continued not only the centre of the mission,, but a principal feat of the religion ; for when St. Paul returned thither, at the conclufion of the period of which we are now: considering the accounts, the other apostles pointed out to him, as a reason for his compliance with their advice, " how many thousands (myriads, ten thousands) there were in that city who believed." 5
Upon this abstract, and the writing from which it is drawn, the following observations seem material to be made :
1. That the account comes from a perfon, who was himself concerned in a portion of what he relates, and was contemporary with the whole of it ; who visited Jerusalem, and frequented the fociety of those who had acted; and were acting, the. chief parts in the transaction. I lay down this point positively; for had the ancient attestations to this valuable record been less, fatisfactory than they are, the unaffectedness and simplicity with which the author notices his presence upon certain occasions, and the entire absence of art and design from these notices, would have been fufficient to persuade my mind, that, whoever he was, he actually lived in the times, and occupied the situation in which he represents himself to be. When I say, " who.. ever he was,” I do not mean to cast a doubt upon the paine, tor: which antiquity hath ascribed the Acts of the apostles, (forthere is no cause, that I am acquainted with, for questioning it) but to obferve, that in such a case as this, the tine and situation of the author is of more importance than his name; and that thefe appear from the work itself; and in the most unsuspicious form.
a Considering the extreme conciseness of many parts of the history, the filence about the numbers of converts is no proof of their paucity : for at Philippi, no mention whatever is made of the numher, yet St., Paul addressed an epifle to that church. The churches of Galatia, and the affairs of those churches, were considerable enough to be the subject of another letter, and of much of St. Paul's solicitude, yet no. account is preserved in the history of his success, or even of his preaching, in that country, except the light notice which these words con vey :-“when they had gone throughout Phrygia, and the region of Galatia, they assayed to go into Bythinia.” xvi. 6,7,
b Ib. xxi. 20.
II. That this account is a very incomplete account of the preaching and propagation of Christianity; I mean, that, if what we read in the history be true, much more than what the history contains must be true alfo: For, although the narrative from which our information is derived has been entitled the Acts of the apostles, it is in fact a history of the twelve apostles only during a short time of their continuing together at Jerusalem; and even of this period the account is very concise. The work afterwards consists of a few important passages of Peter's ministry, of the speech and death of Stepheny of the preaching of Philip the deacon ; and the fequel of the volume, that is, two thirds of the whole is taken up with the conversion, the travels, the discourses and history, of the new apostle Paul, in which history also large portions of time are often pafled over with very scanty notice.III. That the account; so far goes;
igs for this
very reason more credible: Had it been the author's design to have displayed the early progress of Christianity, he would undoubtedly have collected, or, at least, have set forth; accounts of the preaching of the rest of the apostles, who cannot; without extreme improbability, be supposed to have remained Glent and inactive, or not to have met with a share of that success which attended their colleagues.. To which it may be added, as an obfervation of the same kind,
IV. That the intimations of the number of converts, and of the success of the preaching of the apostles; come out for the most part incidentally ;. are drawn from the historian by the oce casion ;. such as the murmuring of the Grecian converts, the rest from persecution, Herod's death, the fending of Barnabas to Antioch, and Barnabas calling Paul to his allistance, Paul coming to a place and finding there disciples, the clanour fo the Jews, the complaint of artificers: interested in the support of the popular religion, the reason alligned to induce Paul'to give. fatisfaction to the Christians of Jerusalein. Had it not been for: thefe occafions, it is probable that no notice whatever wouldi have been taken of the number of conyerts, in several of the
passages in which that notice now appears. All this tends to remove the fufpicion of any design to exaggerate or deceive.
PARALLEL TESTIMONIES with the history, are the letters which have come down to us of St. Paul, and of the other apostles. Those of St. Paul are addreffed to the churches of Corinth, Philippi, Thessalonica, the church of Galatia, and, if the inscription be right, of Ephesus, his ministry at all which places is recorded in the history; to the church of Colosse, or rather to the churches of Colosse and Laodicea jointly, which he had not then visited. They recognize by reference the churches of Judea, the churches of Asia, and "all the churches of the Gentiles.”a In the epistle to the Romans," the author is led to deliver a remarkable declaration, concerning the extent of his preaching, its efficacy, and the cause to which he ascribes it, “to make the Gentiles obedient by. word and deed, through mighty ligns and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that, from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” In the epistle to the Coloflians, we find an oblique, but very strong fignification, of the then general state of the Christian million, at least as it appeared to St. Paul : “ If ye continue in the faith,, grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the: hope of the gofpel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven ?" which gospel, he had reminded them near the beginning of his letter, present with them as it was in all the world.” The expresions: are hyperbolical ; but they are hyperboles, which could only be used by a writer who entertained a strong sense of the subje&a The first epistle of Peter accosts the Christians dispersed through qut Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia..
SECT. I IT comes next to be considered, how far these accounts are confirmed, or followed up, by other: evidence.
Tacitus, in delivering a relation, which has already been laid before the reader, of the fire which happened at Rome in the tenth year of Nero, which coincides with the thirtieth year: after Christ's afcenfion, afferts, that the emperor, in order to fuppress the rumours of having been himself the author of the mife: chief, procured the Christians to be accufed. Of which Chrif tians, thus brought into his narrative, the following is so much of the historian's account, , as belongs to our present purpose. *. They had their denomination from Christus, who, in the reign : of Tiberius, was put to death as a criminal by the procurator Pontius Pilate. This pernicious fuperftition, though checked ! for a while, broke out again, and spread not only over Judeag, but reached the city also. At first they only were apprehende ed; who confessed themselves of that fect; afterwards a vall? multitude were discove: rd by them.” This testimony to the early propagation of Christianity is extremely material.
21 Theff. 11. 14. Rom, xvi19, 4..
b XV. 18, 191
It is from an historian of great reputation, living near the times from a stranger and an enemy to the religion; and it : joins immediately with the period through which the scripture : accounts extend. It establishes these: points, that the religion began at Jerusalem, that it spread throughout Judea, that it had reached Rome, and not only fo, but that it had there obtained ! a great number of convertss. This was about fix
after the time that St. Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans, and something more than two years after he arrived there himself. The converts to the religion were then fo numerous at Rome, , that of those who were betrayed by the information of the pero fons first profecuted, a great multitude (multitudo ingens) were: discovered and seized,
It seems probable, that the temporary check' which Tacituss represents Christianity to have received (repreffa in præfens) rex ferred to the perfecution at Jérusalem, which followed the deatha, of Stephen 3: (AĆs viii.) and which, by disperfing the convertsy, caufed the institution, in some measure; to disappear: Its fecaond eruption at the same place, and within a short time, hass much in it of the character of truth. If was the firmness and I perseverance of men who knew what they relied uponu.
Next in order of time, and perhaps fuperior in importance, is; the testimony of Pliny the younger, Pliny was the Roman goya-ernor of Pontus and Bithynia, two considerable districts in the northern part of Asia Minor. The situation in which he found! his province, led him to apply to the emperor (Trajan) for his direction, as to the conduct he was to hold i towards the Chrifi fi303.. The letter, in which this application is contained, was ; written not quite eighty years after Chrift's, afcenfion. The
president in this letter states the measures he had already pusi fued, and then adds, as his reason for reforting to the emperor's: counsel and authority, the following words "Suspending all judicial proceedings, I have recourfe to you for advice; for it has appeared to me a matter highly deserving confideration, ef pecially upon account of the great number of perfons who are ia danger of suffering :- for many of all ages, and of every rank, of both sexes likewise, are accused, and will be accafed. Nor has the contagion of this superstition seized cities only, but the leffer towns alfo,. and the opere country. Nevertheless it seemed to me that it may be restrained and corrected. It is certain that the temples, which were almost forsaken, begin to be more frem quented; and the sacred solemnities, after a long intermilioni are revived.. Victims; likewife, are every where (paflim) bought up; whereas, for fome time, there were few to purchase them Whence it is easy to imagine, what numbers of men might be reclaimed, if pardon were granted to those that fhall repent.?'a
It is obvious to obfove, that the passage of Pliny's-letter, here quoted, proves not only that the Christians in Pontus and Bithynia were now numerous, but that they had fabfifted there for some considerable time. - “ It is certain (he fays) that the temples, which were almost forfáken, (plainly ascribing this de fertion of the popular worship to the prevalency of Christianity) begin to be more frequented ; and the sacred solemnities, after a long intermiffion, are revived." There are also two claufes in the former part
of the letter which indicate the same thing ; oney, in which he declares that he had “never been present at any trials of Christians; and therefore knew.not what was the usuad fubject of inquiry and punishment, or how: far either' was wont to be urged the second clause is the following ::“ others were named by an informer; who at first, confessed themselves Chrif tians; and afterwards denied it';: the rest said;', that they had' been Christians, fome three years ago, fome longer, and some above twenty years.” It is also apparent that Plioy speaks of the Christians as a description of men well known to the perfon to whom he writes. His firft sentence concerning them is;“ I have never been present at the trials of Christians.” This mentica of the name of Christians; without any preparatory explanation shows that it was a term familiar both to the writer of the leto ter, and the person to whom it was addressed. Had it not been?
C. Plin. Trajano Inip, lib. I. cp, acvia