« PreviousContinue »
who had lately acceded to the government of Judea, “ stretched forth his hand to vex certain of the church *.” He began his cruelty by beheading one of the twelve original apostles, a kinsman and constant companion of the Founder of the religion. Perceiving that this execution gratified the Jews, he proceeded to seize, in order to put to death, another of the number,--and him, like the former, associated with Christ during his life, and eminently active in the service since his death. This man was, however, delivered from prison, as the account states-t, miraculously, and made his escape from Jerusalem.
These things are related, not in the general terms under which, in giving the outlines of the history, we have here men. tioned them, but with the utmost particularity of names, persons, places, and circumstances; and what is deserving of notice, without the smallest discoverable propensity in the historian to magnify the fortitude, or exaggerate the sufferings of his party. When they fled for their lives, he
* Acts, xii. 1.
+ Acts, xii. 3....17.
When the churches had rest, he remarks it. When the people took their part, he does not leave it without notice. When the apostles were carried a second time before the Sanhedrim, he is careful to observe that they were brought without violence. When milder counsels were suggested, he gives us the author of the advice, and the speech which contained it. When, in consequence of this advice, the rulers contented themselves with threatening the apostles, and commanding them to be beaten with stripes, without urging at that time the persecution farther, the historian candidly and distinctly records their forbearance. When, therefore, in other instances, he states heavier persecutions, or actual martyrdoms, it is reasonable to believe that he states them because they were true, and not from
wish to aggravate, in his account, the sufferings which Christians sustained, or to extol, more than it deserved, their patience under them.
Our history now pursues a narrower path, Leaving the rest of the apostles, and the original associates of Christ, engaged in the
propagation of the new faith (and who there is not the least reason to believe abated in their diligence or courage), the narrative proceeds with the separate memoirs of that eminent teacher, whose extraordinary and sudden conversion to the religion, and corresponding change of conduct, had before been circumstantially described. This
person, in conjunction with another, who
appeared among the earlier members of the society at Jerusalem, and amongst the immediate adherents * of the twelve apostles, set out from Antioch
business of carrying the new religion through the various provinces of the Lesser Asia t. During this expedition, we find that, in almost every place to which they came, their persons were insulted, and their lives endangered. After being expelled from Antioch in Pisidia, they repaired to Iconium ... At Iconium, an attempt was made to stone them; at Lystra, whither they fled from Iconium, one of them actually was stoned and drawn out of the city for dead S. These two men, though not themselves original apostles, were acting in connection and conjunction with the original apostles ; for, after the completion of their journey, being sent on a particular commission to Jerusalem, they there related to the apostles * and elders the events and success of their ministry, and were, in return, recommended by them to the churches, “ as men who had hazarded their lives in the cause.”
* Acts, iv. 36.
+ Acts, xiii. 2. § Acts, xiv. 19.
The treatment which they had experienced in the first progress, did not deter them from preparing for a second. Upon a dispute, however, arising between them, but not connected with the common subject of their labours, they acted as wise and sincere men would act; they did not retire in disgust from the service in which they were engaged, but, each devoting his endeavours to the advancement of the religion, they parted from one another, and set forwards upon separate routes.
The history goes along with one of them ; and the second enterprise to him was attended with the same dangers and persecutions as both had met with in the first. The apostle's travels hitherto had been confined to Asia. He now crosses, for the first time, the Ægean Sea, and carries with him, amongst others, the person whose accounts supply the information we are stating *. The first place in Greece at which he appears to have stopped, was Philippi in Macedonia. Here himself and one of his companions were cruelly whipped, cast into prison, and kept there under the most rigorous custody, being thrust, whilst yet smarting with their wounds, into the inner dungeon, and their feet made fast in the stocks f. Notwithstanding this unequivocal specimen of the usage which they had to look for in that country, they went forward in the execution of their errand. After passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica ; in which city, the house in which they lodged was assailed by a party of their enemies, in order to bring them out to the populace. And when, fortunately for their preservation, they were not found at home, the master of the house was dragged before the magistrate for * Acts, xvi. 11.
* Acts, xv. 19—26.