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On the death of Stephen, the proto-martyr, many
of the members of the Christian church at Jerusalem,
“scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” Soon after, Saul of Tarsus, afterwards called Paul, who had been an active agent in this persecution, became a sound convert to the faith of Christ, and a zealous apostle in propagating the Christian religion among the Gentiles; to whom our Saviour sent him, “to open
and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” His zealous exertions in the cause of Christianity were attended with such happy results, that from the testimony of his enemies it is stated, “ Ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost through all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying, that they be no gods which are made with hands.” And such were the effects produced by the ministry of all the apostles and their associates, in various countries, that, as Dr. Paley observes, before the end of thirty years from the death, resurrection, and ascension of our Saviour, the Christian religion had spread itself through Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, almost all the numerous districts of the Lesser Asia, through Greece, and the islands of the Ægean sea, the sea-coast of Africa, and had extended itself to Rome, and into Italy. At Antioch in Syria, at Joppa, Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, Berea, Iconium, Derbe, Antioch in Pisidia, at Ludda, Saron, the number of converts is intimated by the expressions, “a great numbergreat multitudes-much people.” Converts are mentioned, without any designation of their number, at Tyre, Cesarea, Troas, Athens,, Philippi, Lystra, and Damascus.
Thus the apostles, through the divine blessing, though destitute of the advantages of birth, education, fortune
without secular terrers to affright, pecuniary rewards to bribe, or dazzling eloquence to enchant-armed with nothing but faith, truth, goodness yet encountered the power of princes, the bigotry of priests, the learning of philosophers, the rage of the populace, the prejudices of alland were honoured with amazing success! All the literary acquirements and sarcasm of the Greeks and Romans were employed to ridicule the gospel, and prevent its progress; and the potentates of the earth drew the sword against it, armed their legions for effecting its overthrow, but without accomplishing their malicious designs; which evidently proves an extraordinary interposition of God. Had the infidel wits of the present age seen the apostles, when entering on their arduous and unexampled labours, they would sneeringly have derided the attempt, saying, as Sanballat did long before, “ What will these feeble Jews do ?" But had they seen the astonishing event, surely they must have owned, with the Egyptian magi, in a less illustrious miracle, “ This is the finger of God !” a
Tacitus, in giving a relation of a great fire that happened at Rome, in the tenth year of Nero, which coincides with the thirtieth after Christ's ascension, speaking of the Christians, says,
They had their denomination from Christus, who, in the reign of Tiberius, was put to death as a criminal, by the procurator Pontius Pilate. This pernicious superstition, though checked for a while, broke out again, and spread not only over Judea, but reached the city also. At first there were but few apprehended, who confessed themselves of that sect; afterwards a vast multitude was discovered of them."
a The Author's Progress of Christianity, &c. p. 275.
Pliny, the younger, in a letter written to the emperor Trajan concerning the Christians, not quite eighty years after Christ's ascension, says to him, “ Suspending all judicial proceedings, I have recourse to you for advice; for it has appeared to me a matter highly deserving consideration, especially on account of the great number of persons who are in danger of suffering: for many of all ages, and of every rank, of both sexes likewise, are accused, and will be accused. Nor has the contagion of this superstition seized cities only, but the lesser towns also, and the open country." *
Justin, surnamed the Martyr, who embraced Christianity about the year A. D. 132, in his dialogue with Trypho, a noted Jew, (which he wrote about thirty years after Pliny, and 106 after the ascension,) has these remarkable words : “ There is no nation, whether of Barbarians, or Greeks, or any others, by what names soever they are called, whether they live in waggons, or without houses, or in tents, among whom prayers are not made, and thanksgiving offered up, to the Father and Creator of all, through the name of the crucified Jesus.” Þ
Irenæus, who was made Bishop of Lyons in the year of our Lord 179, states, “ This preaching of the gospel, and this faith, the church scattered up and down the whole world maintains, as inhabiting one house, and believes it with one heart and soul, teaches and preaches it as with one mouth ; for though there be different languages in the world, yet the force of tradition, or of that doctrine that has been delivered to the church, is but one and the same.
a C. Plin. Trajano. Imp. lib. x. ep. 97. b Dial. cum. Tryph. p. 345. • Adversus Hæreses, lib. iii. cap. 3. pag. nn. 39.
Tertullian, a Presbyter in Carthage, who flourished about the middle of the second century, and wrote probably not more than twenty years after Irenæus, gives a larger account, and mentions Britain by name. Quoting the words of David, Psal. xix. 4. as applicable to the apostles, “ Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” “In whom,” says he,“ have all the nations of the earth believed, but in Christ ?” Not only Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Lybia and Cyrene, and strangers at Rome, Jews and proselytes, and the other nations; but also the boundaries of the Spaniards, all the different nations of the Gauls, and those parts of BRITAIN which were inaccessible to the Romans, are become subject to Christ.” He goes on to say, after enumerating other nations, “ In all which the name of Christ reigns, because he is now come; before whom the gates of all cities are set open, and none shut; before whom doors of brass fly open, and bars of iron are snapt asunder ; that is, these hearts once possessed by the Devil, by faith in CHRIST are set open.
Origen, the famous Presbyter of Alexandria, who flourished about the year of our Lord 220, speaking of the prophecies which the Jews themselves allowed to refer to the advent of the Messiah, and particularly on the words, the whole earth shall shout for joy, he says, “ The miserable Jews acknowledge that this is spoken of the presence of Christ; but they are stupidly ignorant of the person, though they see the words fulfilled.
à Adversus Judæos, cap. vii. pag. m. 98.
Quando enim terra Britanniæ ante adventum Christi, in unius Dei consensit religionem ;' when, before the advent of Christ, did the land of Britain AGREE in the worship of one God? When did the land of the Moors---when did the whole globe at once agree in this? But now, on account of the churches, which are spread to the uttermost bounds of the world, the whole earth, with rejoicing, invokes the God of Israel.” a Origen tells Celsus what was the cause of this extensive and rapid spread of the Christian religion : “ The first preachers who planted Christian churches, their sermons had a mighty force of persuasion above those who taught the philosophy of Plato, or of any other man endowed only with the power of human nature; but the persuasion of the apostles of Jesus Christ was given of God, persuading men to believe by the efficacy and power of the Holy Spirit ; and therefore quickly and swiftly did their word run through the world, or rather the word of God, by their ministry converting many sinners from the evil of their ways, whom no man could have changed by whatever punishments, but the word of God converted them according to the will of God.” D
Eusebius, a learned and inquisitive historian, says, “ Innumerable multitudes of people, in all cities and countries, like corn in a well filled granary, being brought in by the grace of God that brings salvation. They whose minds were heretofore distempered and overrun with the error and idolatry of their ancestors, were cured by the sermons and miracles of our Lord's disciples : so after shaking off these chains of darkness and slavery, which the merciless demons had put upon them, they
a Origen. Op. vol. b Contra Celsum, lib. iii. pag. 120.