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النشر الإلكتروني

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Chapter H.

THE INTRODUCTION OF CHRISTIANITY INTO BRITAIN, THE IDOLATRY AND CONVERSION OF THE SAXONS, AND THE NATURE AND DESIGN OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.

“ The religion of Jesus comes from God, and is a most glorious dispensation, not only for the sublime wonders of its doctrine, and the divine purity of its precepts, but that it excels all other religions in the strength of its motives, the richness of its promises, and the sufficiency of the divine aid attending it.”-Dr. Jennings on Preaching Christ.

our remote ancestors.

HERE stands a Church, which has, from a very distant period, been devoted to the service of God! This high and venerable pile has occupied this situation during a long succession of ages, and still remains a conspicuous monument of the pious zeal and combined liberality of

Time has laid its mouldering hand on some parts of the stately structure, and others have evidently undergone partial repairs. There may yet be discovered numerous traces of fine graphical skill, but for many generations past the names of those who, upon these embossments, left striking displays of genius for the admiration of succeeding ages, have been unknown. They are gone, but their works remain, not to say who they were, but what they performed.

Remote antiquity sanctions the erection and occupancy of suitable places for the public worship of Almighty

God. The renowned patriarchs had their sacred altars, though of rude construction, upon which they offered acceptable sacrifices. The Israelites, during their eventful peregrinations through the Arabian desert, had their tabernacle of meeting, in which the Lord their God condescended to favour them with visible tokens of his gracious presence. When conducted to the fruitful land of Canaan, and settled there according to divine appointment, they erected a magnificent temple, whose form, dimensions, and elegance, rendered it for many ages the wonder of surrounding nations. In addition to which, they built numerous synagogues, over all the country, for more general convenience; as well as constructed houses of prayer, in which pious persons might assemble more privately, and there pour forth the warm effusions of their devout hearts.

The primitive Christians, whose religion was rejected by the unbelieving Jews, as well as accounted “ foolishness” by the learned Greeks, were so far from enjoying splendid temples for religious worship, that they scarcely had places where to hide their heads, and did frequently avail themselves of the nocturnal season quietly to enjoy the communion of saints. As soon, indeed, as the heat of persecution was abated, and the roaring billows of boisterous passions were hushed into silence, so that the Christians could enjoy peace and security, not only in the retreats of solitude, but also in their public assemblies,_then they looked out for better accommodations, and were industrious in procuring them. Especially, when Constantine the Great embraced the Christian faith, and Rome pagan became Christian: then were many heathen temples converted into places for Christian worship, and the Christians were protected by the civil authority in the performance of religious duties.

When they erected places for public worship, the Jewish temple was the chief model after which they formed them. A cathedral was an imitation of the temple, and a village-place of worship, that of a synagogue. Hence the idea of a holy end for an altar and a circle of priests, and an unhallowed one for the common people. Hence the divisions of porches, choirs, chancels, and other things, answering to the courts of the temple. The pulpit was in the choir : some were portable, and very plain ; others fixtures, stretching out lengthwise, so that the preacher might walk up and down in them; some had seats and curtains, others were adorned with gold and silver, and resembled the thrones of princes more than the places for the convenience of Christian ministers. So says Eusebius, censuring the vanity of Paul of Samosata. And ever since, convenient places for public worship have been provided, which is very commendable ; only those who occupy them should always keep in view the proper design and use of such edifices.

Before the advent of Christ, the progress of his religion, and prosperity of his kingdom, had long been the animating theme of prophetic inspirations. JEHOVAH, speaking to the Messiah, says, - Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” The prophet Isaiah, contemplating the flourishing state of the Messiah's kingdom, breaks forth in the most lively strains, as though he had personally realized it, saying, “ Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and he shall be called the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” And looking forward to the extent and effects of his reign, he

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adds, “ They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain : for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Daniel, in explaining Nebuchadnezzar's dream, after describing the Babylonian, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman empires, subjoins, “In the days of these kings,” namely, of the Roman emperors, “ shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not,” like the former, “ be left to other people ; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” Again, he says, “ I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man came to the Ancient of Days, and there was given to him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”

In conformity to these predictions concerning the kingdom of the Messiah, our Saviour also declares the extensive spread of his religion. “ The gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness to all nations.” Accordingly, when he gave his apostles their commission, he said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” The Jewish economy was like a light whose feeble

rays

confined to one house: but Christianity resembles the glorious orb of day distributing his bright beams to the whole of the human family. Though it was certain, from the sublimity of the doctrines of the gospel, the spirituality of its precepts, its tendency to humble the pride of man, its contrariety to the idolatry and superstition which had for so many ages existed in the world, that the apostles would meet with much opposition in the faithful and

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zealous discharge of their ministerial duties; yet our Saviour, in his address to Peter, concerning his excellent confession, says, “ Upon this Rock will I build my church ; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Gamaliel, speaking to his fellow senators, reasoned wisely and conclusively, “ If this counsel, or this work, be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it."

On the first promulgation of Christianity at Jerusalem, the capital of Judea, its progress was rapid and considerable. Our Saviour, at the beginning of his public ministry, chose twelve persons to attend him, and then seventy disciples, whom he sent by two and 'two before his face into every place whither he himself would go. The ministry of the seventy disciples was successful, for he says, “I beheld Satan as lightening fall from heaven;"? and they “ rejoiced, that the devils were subject unto them, through his name." At the ascension of our Saviour, probably the most part of the members of his church were present, for “ he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once." On the day of Pentecost, such was the power of divine grace attending the ministry of the word, that “there were added about three thousand souls.” Soon after, such was the efficacy of the gospel, that the sacred historian uses this larguage, “ Many of them who heard the word, believed; and the number of the men,” exclusive of the women,

was about five thousand.” Again, he says, “ Believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women." Nay, what is still more remarkable, that “a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Thus the promise of our Saviour to his apostles was accomplished, “I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.”

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