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ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
HE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES, which I have undertaken to illustrate in the following Lectures, contain an history of several important transactions intimately connected with the propagation of Christianity, during a period of about thirty years from the ascension of our Lord into Heaven. In some few of these transactions the whole company of Apostles were concerned : and so far the book may strictly be entitled to the name it bears in Scripture. But, as the interests of the Church required them to take separate commissions for preaching the Gospel, and to enter upon different scenes of action for making converts to the faith ; the history of the Church naturally soon divides itself into distinct parts, no longer embracing the
entire body, but following the course and fortunes of particular members. You will not, therefore, expect here a complete account of all the apostolic acts, but only of those belonging to a few leading men of that order, especially St. Peter and St. Paul: nor even of these Apostles the whole life and conversation, (which would far exceed the limits of so short a treatise) but such events as were best known to the writer, and most worthy of being transmitted to memory.
It was written by St. Luke in continuation of his Gospel; and as his former work was composed from accounts delivered to him by those, “ which from the beginning were eye-witnesses, and ministers of the word,” so in the present he himself bore a considerable part, and wrote from what he had seen with his own eyes; being the intimate friend and companion of the most illustrious apostle, St. Paul; whose history occupies the greatest part of this book, and with whose writings the facts recorded here are found to have the most perfect though undesigned coincidence.*
The first chapter (intended for this lecture) opens thus : « The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach ; until the day in which he was taken up, after that
* See Paley's Horæ Paulinæ ; where this subject is treated with that clearness, ingenuity and strength, which mark all the writings of this excellent Divine:.
he, through the Holy Ghost, had given commandments unto the Apostles whom he had chosen : to whom also he shewed himself alive after his passi. on by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." These words evidently refer to the Gospel inscribed by St. Luke to the same most excellent person, whom he now address. es. He probably was a man of some consideration, if we may judge both from the Evangelist's manner of speaking, and from his dedicating to him this second valuable work ; which sets out with shortly recapitulating the same event, with which his former concluded, viz. our Lord's conversation with the disciples before he ascended up to heaven. The historian continues ; 6 And being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Isracl? And he said unto them, it is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power." Upon which question of the Apostles, and our Saviour's answer, we may by the way observe that crroneous prejudice on
their part, which was almost universally entertain ed, concerning the nature of Christ's kingdom ; and also an impatient curiosity to know the time of its establishment. And we learn from his reply an admirable lesson, to repress all improper inquisitiveness of mind into the secret and unsearchable designs of Providence. Instead of gratifying this prying temper, he turns their view to matters infinitely more important and suitable to their condition: “But, says he, ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you : and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up ; and a cloud received him out of their sight.”
I must here take notice, that the discourse of our Lord now read to you is not in words the same with that recorded by St. Mark, nor even precisely so with the account given by St. Luke in his Gospel on the same occasion. You will however easily perceive amidst those varieties an entire consistency; so that what may be urged on this score by cavillers against Christianity, will be found rather an argument in its favour. To make out this to your satisfaction, I will lay before you the narratives alluded to. St. Mark gives our Lord's words as follow, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature-IIe that be