תמונות בעמוד

ployed of bringing this fallen world to the knowledge of Christ.*

His course may be divided into three parts. The first reaching from the ordination to the council at Jerusalem.

The second, from this council to the close of his labors in Greece. The third, from his last visit at Jerusalem to his death.

In the first, Paul and Barnabus went to Cyprus, where Sergius Paulus, the Roman governor, was converted, and Bar-jesus, for his opposition, was struck blind; then to Perga in Pamphylia; then to Antioch in Pisidia, where Paul preached a long and powerful sermon, by which multitudes were converted to the Lord, but which so exasperated the Jews that they expelled him out of their coasts. Driven thence, they went to Iconium; but, being in danger of stoning, they retired to Lystra and Derbe. There they healed a man who had been lame from his birth, and were taken by the people for gods in the likeness of men. But no sooner had they quieted the adoring populace, than that same populace, stirred up by the envious and base Jews, turned against them and stoned them, so that Paul was supposed to be dead. But God had designed him for great purposes, and he rose up, by divine power, and returned to Antioch. Such was the first mission of the Apostle. In it he made many converts; organized many Churches, and ordained ministers to break to them the bread of life.

But these churches, especially the church at Antioch, were infested with men who would compel the Gentile converts to observe circumcision and the ceremonial law. It was a bold and wicked attempt, which however has been often repeated from that day to this, to substitute external righteousness for faith in Christ as the ground of justification. Discerning saints saw that the evil must be withstood, and Paul and Barnabus were deputized to go to Jerusalem and ask advice of the Apostles and elders. A council was called, the first known in the Christian Church, in which it was determined, That such observances should not be required, only that Gentile converts should abstain from blood, from idols, from fornication, and from things strangled! With this decision, they returned to Antioch, and the Churches had rest.

* He who had been called Saul is now in the Scriptures called Paul: some think from Paulus Sergius, who was converted under his preaching; but it is most probable Paul was his Roman and Saul his Grecian name.

The second period of Paul's ministry was upon a new and unexpected theatre. A vision appeared to him in the night, inviting him over into Macedonia to preach the Gospel. With Silas and Timothy for his companions, he passed without delay into Greece, renowned for science and learning and subject to a most splendid and fascinating idolatry. There he preached with such irresistible energy, that soon, important Churches were collected at Philippi, Thesalonica, Berea and Corinth. It is delightful to contemplate this great Apostle crossing the Hellespont, bearing a treasure to that land of science and arts, infinitely more valuable than all that human reason had ever discovered; and pressing forward through mockings, imprisonment and stonings, until his feet stood on Mars-hill, where, amid temples, altars, and statues, he declared to the Athenians, the most philosophical and refined people, and to the Areopagus, the most able court on earth, the UNKNOWN GOD.

In the polished city, he had but little success. Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus and a woman named Damaris, believed. But the mass of the Athenians were ruined by luxury and a deceitful philosophy. From Greece he went to Jerusalem, and having saluted the Church, he went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening the disciples. At Ephesus, where was the great temple of the goddess Diana, the most splendid heathen temple existing, he abode two years, working miracles, and preaching the gospel with great power. Having finished his work there, he visited all the Churches in Greece, and then set his face, for the last time, to go up to Jerusalem. In this period of his Apostleship he performed his greatest labor and gave the most glorious extension to the Gospel of Christ.

In the last period, he was chiefly a prisoner. He was brought before governors and kings; but he feared not their faces. He boldly vindicated his conduct and cause, and put his enemies to silence. As he reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgment to come, Felix trembled. As he related the wondrous story of his conversion, King Agrippa was almost persuaded to be a Christian. Appealing to Cæsar, he was carried to Rome; but his Lord did not desert him. He preserved him amid dangers, and so overruled events at Rome that he had no trial; but lived two years in his own hired house, teaching with much success the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. A large Church was there instructed and nourished by him. Some of the imperial household, a concubine and cupbearer of Nero, belonged to it. He even stood before Nero himself, and testified the Gospel with the same boldness as he had done before Felix and Agrippa. It is probable that he once more had his liberty and visited the eastern churches. If he did, he again returned to Rome, for there it is reported he suffered martyrdom in the year 65—just thirty years after his conversion.

Such were the labors of Paul—a man of a noble and capacious mind-of extensive learning-profound reasoningconsummate fortitude, and wonderful patience and benevolence. He viewed himself as the least of all saints, and was entirely devoted to his Lord and Master.

Through his exertions and those of the other Apostles and disciples, the civilized world was, in thirty years after the ascension of Christ, filled with the knowledge of the Gospel. We have no means of ascertaining the number of Churches which they planted; but it was great. Their Master had given them the power of speaking all the languages of the earth; of working miracles; of foretelling future events; an unheard of zeal and heroism in his service; an elevation above the frowns and flatteries of the world and death itself; and a wisdom which all their adversaries were not able to resist. The Apostles and teachers were few in number; all felt themselves engaged in the most important of all causes. To these is to be attributed, under God, the vast extension of the Gospel at so early a period; an extension, which when we consider the state of the world and the instruments employed, furnishes the highest evidence of its divine origin.


A Church consisted of an assembly of Christians in one place who had professed Christ; been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and who united in worship, and in the celebration of the Lord's supper. It was called the body of Christ, and those that composed it, members in particular.

To each Church was attached a Pastor and Deacons.

When Christ ascended up on high he instituted various teachers in the Church, called apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for the work of the ministry.

The Apostolic office was personal and temporary. To is

belonged extraordinary privileges and miraculous powers; and it was eminently useful in propagating Christianity and founding Churches. It ceased with the men whom Christ himself appointed to it.

The Prophets were designated to explain the Old Testament prophecies, and foretel things which should come to pass, through inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Their office also was confined to the first days of Christianity.

The Evangelists were appointed to labor wherever they could be useful in Christian and Heathen countries, without being attached to any particular charge. They were like Missionaries and Evangelists at the present period.

Pastors and Teachers were synonymous; though some have supposed that the appropriate business of the Teacher was, to defend the doctrines of Christianity; while the Pastor took a general care of the flock, and attended to the minor pastoral duties. These were attached to a particular Church, and ministered to it, as Bishops or overseers, being set apart by prayer and fasting, and imposition of hands, and the right hand of fellowship originally by the Apostles, and successively by such as had by them been introduced into the ministry.

Christ placed all his ministering servants upon an equality of rank. He told them that they were brethren, and for. bade their receiving any title of distinction which should give one a pre-eminence over another,—condemning the various grades of Christian ministers which have since been established, and the various titles which have since been conferred, elevating a few above their brethren around them.

In the primitive churches, reigned great simplicity of form, and worship. Equality existed among the members. They chose their own pastors. They spent much time in prayer and praise. Letters from the Apostles and other Churches were publicly read, and the word of God was publicly expounded. Their assemblies were generally held in private houses, as they had no public edifices.

The Jewish Christians continued for a time strictly to regard the synagogue worship, but they and all Gentile converts convened, too, on the first day of the week, the day on which Christ rose, the day which, doubtless through the Lord's appointment, now became the Christian Sabbath, and which was called the Lord's day. The Lord's supper was administered at the close of worship; and, as many of the

disciples were poor, opulent brethren brought food of which all partook, in what were called agapae or feasts of love. · They received in great simplicity and purity, as the foundation which they built, the doctrines which had been taught by Christ and the Apostles. They banished forever all idolatry, and worshipped the one living and true God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; viewed man as totally depraved, dead in trespasses and sins, under the curse of the law; received in love, the great doctrines of atonement by the blood of Christ; of election; regeneration by the Holy Spirit; justification by faith; adoption; the resurrection of the dead to eternal happiness or eternal misery, according to moral character.

They practised a purer morality than the Gentile world had ever known. Their former companions looked on them with amazement, because they did not run with them to the same excess of riot. But they had come to the knowledge of God and his law; of the way of duty and safety; their hearts had been filled with holy love; and they now lived like rational, immortal beings, whose great business was to honor God and do good to their fellow men.

Such was the moral state and character of the primitive Churches. But they kept not their glory. The gold soon became dim. Some deceivers were among them, who corrupted the mass. False teachers early introduced errors in doctrine. Believers grew cold and lukewarm; and through the power of indwelling corruption and the temptations of the world, fell into very reprehensible sins. A vain and deceitful philosophy came near destroying the Church at Corinth. That Church also was thrown into dissensions about their leading ministers. One was for Paul and another for Apollos. They abused the Lord's supper; and even an incestuous person was among them. The Galatians were drawn almost away from Christ to a dependence for justification on a strict observance of the ceremonial law. Among the Philippians were those who walked as enemies of the cross of Christ, whose god was their belly. Peter and Jude describe to us some horrible enormities of nominal Christians, who looked for justification by faith without works. Among the seven promising and excellent Churches of Asia, there was scarce one that retained, at the end of forty years, her original purity of doctrine or practice. · And yet it was the golden age of the Church. Who would not have lived in that period and heard the Apostles preach

« הקודםהמשך »