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II.

11. Relying upon these celestial succours, the apostles began their glorious ministry, by preaching the gospel, according to Christ's positive command, first to the Jews, and by endeavouring to bring that deluded people to the knowledge of the truth. Nor were their labours unsuccessful, since, in a very short time, many thousands were converted, by the influence of their ministry, to the christian faith. From the Jews, they passed to the Samaritans, to whom they preached with such efficacy, that great numbers of that nation acknowledged the Messiah. And after that they had exercised their ministry, during several years, at Jerusalem, and brought to a sufficient degree of consistence and maturity the christian churches which were founded in Palestine and the adjacent countries, they extended their views further, carried the divine lamp of the gospel to all the nations of the world, and saw their labours crowned, almost every where, with the most abundant fruits.

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III. No sooner was Christ exalted on high, than The election the apostles determined to render their number of a new aposcomplete, as it had been fixed by their divine master, and accordingly to choose, in the place of Judas, who had desperately perished by his own hands, a man endowed with such degrees of sanctity and wisdom, as were necessary in a station of such vast importance. Having therefore gathered together the small assembly of christians which had then been formed at Jerusalem, two men, remarkable for their piety and faith, were proposed as the most worthy to stand candidates for this sacred office. These men were Matthias and Barnabas, the former of whom was, either by lot, which is the most general opinion, or by a plurality of voices

9 Luke xxiv. 47. Acts i. S. xiii. 46.

Acts ii. 41. iv. 4.

Acts i. 8. viii. 14

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be an apostle.

Paul called to IV. All these apostles were men without education, and absolutely ignorant of letters and philosophy; and yet in the infancy of the christian church, it was necessary that there should be, at least, some one defender of the gospel, who, versed in the learned arts, might be able to combat the Jewish doctors and the pagan philosophers with their own arms. For this purpose, Jesus himself, by an extraordinary voice from heaven, called to his service a thirteenth apostle, whose name was Saul, afterward Paul, and whose acquaintance both with Jewish and Grecian learning was very considerable." This extraordinary man, who had been one of the most virulent enemies of the christians, became their most glorious and triumphant defender. Independent of the miraculous gifts with which he was enriched, he was naturally possessed of an invincible courage, an amazing force of genius, and a spirit of patience, which no fatigue could overcome, and which no sufferings or trials could exhaust. To these the cause of the gospel, under the divine appointment, owed a considerable part of its rapid progress and surprising success, as the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistlesof St. Paul, abundantly testify.

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The church of v. The first christian church, founded by the apostles, was that of Jerusalem, which was the model of all those that were afterward erected how constitut during this first century. This church was however, governed by the apostles themselves, to whom both the elders, and those who were intrusted with the care of the poor, even the deacons, were subject. The people, though they had not abandoned the Jewish worship, held, however, separate assemblies, in which they were instructed by the apostles

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and elders, prayed together, celebrated the holy supper in remembrance of Christ, of his death and PART sufferings, and the salvation offered to mankind through him; and, at the conclusion of these meetings, they testified their mutual love, partly by their liberality to the poor, and partly by sober and friendly repasts," which from thence were called feasts of charity. Among the virtues which distinguished the rising church in this its infancy, that of charity to the poor and needy shone in the first rank, and with the brightest lustre. The rich supplied the wants of their indigent brethren with such liberality and readiness, that, as St. Luke tells us, among the primitive disciples of Christ, all things were in common.* This expression has, however, been greatly abused, and has been made to signify a community of rights, goods, or possessions, than which interpretation nothing is more groundless, nothing more false. For from a multitude of reasons, as well as from the express words of St. Peter,' it is abundantly manifest that the community, which is implied in mutual use and mutual liberality, is the only thing intended in this passage.

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VI. The apostles, having finished their work at Jerusalem, went from thence to employ their labours in other nations, travelled, with this view, over a great part of the known world, and in a short time planted a vast number of churches among the Gentiles. Several of these are mentioned in the sacred writings, particularly in the Acts of the Apos

w Acts ii. 42.

* Acts ii. 44. iv. 32.

7 Acts v. 4.

This is proved with the utmost evidence by Dr. Mosheim, in a dissertation concerning the true nature of that community of goods, which is said to have taken place in the church of Jerusalem. This learned discourse is to be found in the second volume of our author's incomparable work, entitled, Dissertationes ad Historiam Ecclesiasti cam pertinentes.

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Christ respected among the Gentiles.

though these are, undoubtedly, but a small part of the churches, which were founded either by the apostles themselves, or by their disciples under their immediate direction. The distance of time, and the want of records, leave us at a loss with respect to many interesting circumstances of the peregrinations of the apostles; nor have we any certain or precise accounts of the limits of their voyages, of the particular countries where they sojourned, nor of the times and places in which they finished their glorious course. The stories that are told concerning their arrival and exploits among the Gauls, the English, the Spaniards, the Germans, the Americans, the Chinese, the Indians, and the Russians, are too romantic in their nature, and of too recent a date, to be received by an impartial inquirer after truth. The greatest part of these fables were forged after the time of Charlemagne, when most of the christian churches contended about the antiquity of their origin, with as much vehemence as the Arcadians, Egyptians, and Greeks, disputed formerly about their seniority and precedence.

VII. At the same time, the beauty and excellence of the christian religion excited the admiration of the thinking part of mankind, wherever the apostles directed their course. Many, who were not willing to adopt the whole of its doctrines were, nevertheless, as appears from undoubted records, so struck with the account of Christ's life and actions, and so charmed with the sublime purity of his precepts, that they ranked him in the number of the greatest heroes, nay, even of the gods themselves. Great numbers kept, with the utmost

a The names of the churches, planted by the apostles in the different nations, are specified in a work of Phil. James Hartman, De rebus gestis Christianorum sub apostolis, cap. vii. p. 107; and also in that of F. Albert Fabricius, entitled, Lux Evangelis toti orbi exoriens, cap. v. p. 83, &c.

care, in their houses, pictures or images of the divine Saviour and his apostles, which they treated with the highest marks of veneration and respect.b And so illustrious was the fame of Christ's power grown, after his resurrection from the dead, and the miraculous gifts shed from on high upon his apostles, that the emperor Tiberius is said to have proposed his being enrolled among the gods of Rome, which the opposition of the senate hindered from taking effect. Many have doubted of the truth of this story; there are, however, several authors of the first note who have declared, that the reasons alleged for the truth of this fact are such as have removed their doubts, and appeared to them satisfactory and conclusive.

This is particularly mentioned by Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. lib. vii. cap. xviii. p. 265, and by Ireneus, lib. i. c. xxv.

See Theod. Hastus, De decreto Tiberii, quo Christum referre voluit in numerum Deorum; as also a very learned letter, written in defence of the truth of this fact, by the celebrated Christopher Iselius, and published in the Bibliotheque Germanique, tom. xxxii. p. 147, and tom. xxxiii. p. 12. [We may add to this note of Dr. Mosheim, that the late learned professor Altmann published at Bern, in the year 1755, an ingenious pamphlet upon this subject, entitled, Disquisitio Historico-critica de Epistola Pontii Pilati ad Tiberium, qua Christi miracula, mors, et resurrectio recensebantur. This author makes it appear, that though the letter, which some have attributed to Pilate, and which is extant in several authors, be manifestly spurious, yet it is no less certain, that Pilate sent to Tiberius an account of the death and resurrection of Christ. See the Biblioth. des sciences, et des beaux arts, published at the Hague, tom. vi. p. 360. This matter has been examined anew with his usual diligence and accuracy by the learned Dr. Lardner, in the third volume of his Collection of Jewish and Heathen Testimonies to the truth of the Christian Religion, &c. p. 310, &c. He thinks that the testimonies of Justin Martyr and Tertullian, who, in apologies for Christianity, that were presented, or at least addressed to the emperor and senate of Rome, or to magistrates of high authority in the empire, affirm, that Pilate sent to Tiberius an account of the death and resurrection of Christ, deserve some regard; though some writers, and particularly Orosius, have made alterations and additions in the original narration of Tertullian, that are too much adapted to diminish the credibility of the whole.]

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