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PART I

CENT. of his death and sufferings, and the salvation ofI. fered 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 [w], 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 [x]. 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 [y], it is abundantly manifest that the community, which is implied in mutual use and mutual liberality, is the only thing intended in this passage [z].

Many churches

VI. The apostles having finished their work founded by at Jerusalem, went from thence to employ their the apostles 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

in different places.

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[x] Acts ii. 44. iv. 32.

[z] 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, Ecclesiasticum pertinentes.

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PART I.

Acts of the Apostles [a]; though these are, un- CENT. doubtedly, 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 par, ticular countries where they sojourned, nor of the times and places in which they finished their glo. rious 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,

among the

VII. At the same time, the beauty and excel Christ relence of the Christian religion excited the admira- spected tion of the thinking part of mankind, wherever Gentiles. the apostles directed their course. Many, who were not willing to adopt the whole of its doc trines, 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,

[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 Evangelii toti Orbi exoriens, cap. v. p. 83, &c.

VOL. I.

F

I.

CENT. nay, even of the gods themselves. Great numbers kept with the utmost care, in their houses, pictures PART 1. 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 [c]..

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

[c] See Theod. Hasæus, 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 cele brated 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 Dis quisitio 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. Larduer, 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 em

1. PART I.

The causes

of the gos

VIII. When we consider the rapid progress of CENT. Christianity among the Gentile nations, and the poor and feeble instruments by which this great and amazing event was immediately effected, we must naturally have recourse to an omnipotent and of the rapid invisible hand, as its true and proper cause. For propagation unless we suppose here a divine interposition, how pel. was it possible that men, destitute of all human aid, without credit or riches, learning or eloquence, could, in so short a time, persuade a considerable part of mankind to abandon the religion of their ancestors? How was it possible, that a handful of apostles, who, as fishermen and publicans, must have been contemned by their own nation, and as Jews, must have been odious to all others, could engage the learned and the mighty, as well as the simple and those of low degree, to forsake their favourite prejudices, and to embrace a new religion which was an enemy to their corrupt passions? And, indeed, there were undoubted marks of a celestial power perpetually attending their ministry. There was, in their very language, an incredible energy, an amazing power of sending light into the understanding, and conviction into the heart. To this were added, the commanding influence of stupendous miracles, the foretelling of future events, the power of discerning the secret thoughts and intentions of the heart, a magnanimity su perior to all difficulties, a contempt of riches and honours, a serene tranquillity in the face of death, and an invincible patience under torments still more dreadful than death itself; and all this accompanied with lives free from all stain, and adorned with the constant practice of sublimé

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pire, 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 Tertullián, that are too much adapted to diminish the credibility of the whole.]

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PART I.

CENT. virtue. Thus were the Messengers of the divine Saviour, the heralds of his spiritual and immortal kingdom, furnished for their glorious work, as the unanimous voice of ancient history so loudly testifies. The event sufficiently declares this; for without these remarkable and extraordinary circumstances, no rational account can be given of the rapid propagation of the gospel throughout the world.

Miraculous

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IX. What indeed contributed still further to gifts com this glorious event was, the power vested in the by the apos- apostles of transmitting to their disciples these miraculous gifts. For many of the first Christians were no sooner baptized according to Christ's appointment, and dedicated to the service of God by solemn prayer and the imposition of hands, than they spoke languages they had never known or learned before, foretold future events, healed the sick by pronouncing the name of Jesus, restored the dead to life, and performed many things above the reach of human power [d]. And it is no wonder if men, who had the power of communicating to others these marvellous gifts, appeared great and respectable, wherever they exercised their glorious ministry.

The progress of the gospel at

absurd

causes.

X. Such, then, were the true causes of that amazing rapidity with which the Christian relitributed to gion spread itself upon earth; and those who pretend to assign other reasons of this surprising event, indulge themselves in idle fictions, which must disgust every attentive observer of men and things. In vain, therefore, have some imagined, that the extraordinary liberality of the Christians to their poor, was a temptation to the more indolent and corrupt part of the multitude to em

[d] See Pfanner's learned treatise, De Charismatibus sive Donis miraculosis antiquæ Ecclesiæ, published at Francfort,

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