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and witnessed their miraculous operations; and beheld the astonishing outpourings of the Spirit, and seen the heathen casting their gods to the moles and the bats, and mingled in joyful worship with those who had seen our Lord?
The Apostles were fishermen, unlearned men, and for this reason have been despised by the world; but no class of men so command our admiration and love. He who made them, enlarged their native powers; gave them astonishing wisdom and fortitude; and shed abroad in their hearts a spirit of love and compassion for their fellow men, second only to that of him who died for us. They published to man the pure gospel. Christ had directly or indirectly declared all the great doctrines of the Gospel. What he taught, would have been lost to the world had they not committed it to writing, for future generations. This they did through inspiration of the Spirit. What Christ taught needed to be taught again and more fully and explicitly; for he spake in a region of darkness, and the darkness comprehended him not. Even his own disciples had but a very imperfect understanding of what is now plain to us. It was in vain for him therefore to labor much with them, until after he had finished his work. “ I have many things,” said he, “ to say to you, but ye cannot bear them now, nevertheless when the Spirit of all truth is come, he will reveal them to you." Christ's promise was fulfilled. They were taught more perfectly the great scheme of redemption; all the doctrines and precepts of Christianity; the officers, ordinances and affairs of the Church through every age of the Christian dispensation and its final glorification in heaven. Whatever they spoke or wrote, they spoke or wrote as taught of God, and is to be received as precisely of the same authority as the words of Christ himself. Of the places where nine of them labored and died, scarce any thing is recorded. Probably they labored and died near Jerusalem.
The biographers of our Lord were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Matthew was a publican or tax-gatherer, living at Capernaum. He wrote his Gospel soon after the ascension, A. D. 37 or 38, first, it is supposed, in Hebrew and then in Greek.
Mark was the son of a pious woman in Jerusalem. He was not one of the twelve Apostles; but was a companion of Paul, Peter and Barnabas in their travels. He wrote his Gospel in Greek about the year 63, at Rome, at the request of the Church there.
Luke was not an Apostle; but a physician of Antioch, who early attached himself to the Apostles and was a close companion of Paul in his travels. He was a man of learning and wrote very pure Greek. When he wrote his history of Christ is uncertain.
John was the youngest of the twelve, was the beloved disciple, and one of the best men that ever lived. He was a witnesss of the transfiguration; sat next to Jesus, on his couch, at the passover, and saw his agony in the garden. To him Christ committed his mother from the cross. He was at the council in Jerusalem about the year 50. Soon after that, he took the pastoral care of the church at Ephesus, where he probably remained many years. He outlived all the Apostles.* He wrote his Gospel at Ephesus about A. D. 97, or 98, evidently to declare our Savior's divinity, which many were disposed to deny. He inserted in it but a few things recorded by the other Evangelists; probably considering it unnecessary. He wrote what they had omitted; particularly, that last conversation which Christ had with his disciples at the institution of the supper and his intercessory prayer.
The question has been asked why more and fuller accounts of Christ were not given? More and fuller might have been. John says, if all were written which Jesus did, the world would not contain the books. More actually were written, as Luke informs Theophilus. But these alone have been
* A few fragments have been collected of this beloved disciple, though their authenticity is doubted. Such it is said was his regard for the truth, that once, while in the public bath at Ephesus, he perceived there Cerinthus, an open heretic, and came out hastily, exclaiming, “Let us flee, lest the bath should fall while Cerinthus, an enemy of the truth, is in it.” It was like him who charged a Christian lady not to receive him into her house, nor bid him God speed who preached another Gospel.
Hearing, in his old age, of a lovely youth who had apostatized from the Christian faith, and become the head of a band of robbers, he went to the mountains and demanded of the robbers the sight of their captain. Beholding the venerable Apostle, the youth fled. John followed and cried, My son, why fliest thou from thy father, unarmed and old. Christ hath sent me. The youth stopped, trembled and wept bitterly. John prayed, exhorted and brought him back a penitent to the company of the Christians.
When very old he constantly repeated in his exhortations, “ Children love one another.”
In his old age he wrote his three Epistles. By Domitan he was, says Tertullian, cast into a cauldron of boiling oil, from which he came out unhurt, and then was banished to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote his Rev. elations. He again returned to Asia, where he lived three or four years, a pattern of charity and goodness. He died in the beginning of the second · century, being about an hundred years of age.
transmitted to us by the Holy Ghost, doubtless because, in the divine mind, they were sufficient. He that rejects these books, would reject more. The discovery of a fifth gospel, would have no more effect than would the discovery of one of the four, had the world have been possessed of but three. No man was ever, it is presumed, converted by the consideration that there were four histories of Christ rather than three. No man would be converted by five, who is unconvinced by the four.
The Acts of the Apostles, the great history of the early spread of the Gospel, was written by Luke A. D. 63, but it is evidently far from being a full account. The Apostles felt a deep solicitude for the spiritual welfare of the churches which they had planted. They had taught them the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. But these were, in many cases, supplanted by gross errors, introduced by false teachers. The standard of morals in that age, was low, and corrupt practices were witnessed among the professed followers of Christ. These circumstances induced the Apostles, Paul, Peter, James, Jude and John, to address letters to these churches, for their instruction, correction and edification. These letters, written under inspiration of the Holy Ghost, form an exceedingly valuable part of the sacred volume. They unfold the great principles of Christianity, and exhibit all the distinguishing traits of Christian character.*
The last book in the sacred canon, the Revelation of John, was formed in the isle of Patmos, whither he was banished, near the close of life and of the first century, and published soon after his release at Ephesus. Excepting an introduction and description of a vision of Jesus Christ, and an address of commendation and reproof to the seven churches of
* Order, time and place in which the Epistles were written.
A. D. Place. 1 Thessalonians, 52, Corinth. Hebrews,
63, Rome. 2 Thessalonians, 52, do. 1 Timothy,
64, Nicopolis. Galatians,
64, Macedonia. 1 Corinthians, 57, Ephesus. 2 Timothy, 65, Rome. Romans, Corinth. James,
61, Jerusalem. 2 Corinthians, Philippi. 1 Peter,
Rome. 2 Peter,
65. do. Philippians,
do. 1, 2, 3, John, 80–90, Ephesus. Colossians,
64, do. Philemon,
do. Revelations, 96 or 97, do. The subscriptions to the Epistles are spurious, for they are contradieted often by the books themselves.
Asia, it is a most sublime and wonderful prophetic exhibition of the great events which should occur in the providence of God, especially those which relate to his church, of the millennium, and the judgment; of the eternal happiness of the righteous, and the endless misery of the finally impenitent. The Evangelical History, the Epistles and Revelation, are called the New Testament, because they fully unfold God's gracious covenant with his people. It is supposed they were first collected together by John.
That glorious kingdom spoken of by Daniel in his explanation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream; which God was to set up in the most splendid period of the Roman empire; which was to break in pieces and consume all earthly kingdoms and stand forever, was now firmly established. God has set his king on the holy hill of Zion, and before the close of the first century, subjects were gathered out of almost every people and nation in the known world. Churches were planted from Hindostan to Gaul; stated means of grace were established and brought into operation; an army of missionaries was waging an exterminating war against idolatry, and the lusts and passions of men; and the Spirit of God in its resistless energy, was making the word, in their hands, effectual to the conviction and conversion of a multitude whom no man could number.
Such triumphs over sin and hell were not obtained without exciting in the prince of this world, the most artful, malignant and deadly hostility.
The first opposition which arose against the church of Christ, was from those to whom the gospel was first preached;—the Jews, the ancient covenant people of God. A degenerate race, holding only the forms of religion; proud, hypocritical, and ambitious in the extreme, had crucifi. ed the Lord of glory; and now, when they saw the church arise, in spite of all their efforts to suppress it, and the blood of Christ come upon them and their children, and their Temple worship forsaken and priesthood despised, they persecuted the followers of Christ with relentless rage in Jerusalem and throughout Judea and Galilee, and every country wherever they were in their dispersions. Some, in fulfilment of Christ's prediction, they crucified; others they scourged in their synagogues, and all, they persecuted from city to city.
Such ingratitude, perverseness and rebellion; such treatment of his Son, his messages of mercy, his Apostles and
servants, called aloud for the vengeance of God. The divine patience was exhausted. Dear as their fathers had been, God now gave them up to blindness of mind and hardness of heart, to fill up the measure of their iniquity. He rejected them and cast them off from being his people, and suffered their enemies to make an utter extermination of their city and nation.
Under Vespasian, the Romans invaded the country and took the cities of Galilee, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, where Christ had been rejected; destroyed the inhabitants and left nothing but ruin and desolation.
Jerusalem was destroyed A. D. 70. Its destruction was distinctly foretold by Christ; but no tongue can tell the · sufferings of its devoted inhabitants. Josephus, who was an eye-witness of them, remarks, “that all the calamities that ever befel any nation, since the beginning of the world, were inferior to the miseries of his countrymen at that awful period.
After the death of Herod, the Jews were subject to Roman jurisdiction, but they were divided into violent factions led by profligate wretches, and soon openly revolted from the imperial dominion. Warned by Christ before his crucifixion,* of the storm that was about to burst upon the devoted city, the Christians all fled to Pella, a city beyond Jordan. . On the day of the passover, the anniversary of the crucifixion of Christ, Titus the Roman general, encamped before Jerusalem with a formidable army. A tremendous siege ensued. The Jews defended themselves with astonishing valor; but they were unable long to resist the power of the Roman engines. To accelerate the ruin,
Titus enclosed the city by a circumvallation, strengthened by thirteen towers, by which the prophecy of Christ was fulfilled, “the days shall come upon thee, when thine enemics shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee around on every side.” | Then ensued a famine, the like to wlich the world has never witnessed. An eminent Jewess, frantic with her sufferings, devoured her infant. Moses had long before predicted this very thing.f “The tender and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness; her eye shall be evil towards her young one, and towards her children which she shall bear, for she shall eat them for want of all
* Matt. xxiv. 15. Luke xix. 43. Deut. xxviii. 56.