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people." Upon Herod's death, which happened in the next year, it is observed, that "the word of God grew and multiplied." Three years from this time, upon the preaching of Paul at Iconium, the metropolis of Lycaonia, "a great multitude both of Jews and Greeks believed;"§ and afterwards, in the course of this very progress, he is represented as "making many disciples" at Derbe, a principal city in the same district. Three years after this, which brings us to sixteen after the ascension, the apostles wrote a public letter from Jerusalem to the Gentile converts in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, with which letter Paul travelled through these countries, and found the churches" established in the faith, and increasing in number daily."** From Asia the apostle proceeded into Greece, where, soon after his arrival in Macedonia, we find him at Thessalonica; in which city "some of the Jews believed, and of the devout Greeks a great multitude.”†† We meet also here with an accidental hint of the general progress of the Christian mission, in the exclamation of the tumultuous Jews of Thessalonica, "that they who had turned the world upside down, were come thither also."‡‡ At Berea, the next city at which St. Paul arrives, the historian who was present, informs us, that "many of the Jews believed."§§ The next year and half of St. Paul's ministry was spent at Corinth. Of his success in that city we receive the following intimations: "that many of the Corinthians believed and were baptized," and "that it was revealed to the apostle by Christ, that he had much people in that city." Within less than a year after his departure from Corinth, and twenty-five*** years after the ascension, St. Paul fixed his station at Ephesus, for the space of two yearsttt and something more. The effect of his ministry in that city and neighbourhood, drew from the historian a reflection, "So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed."‡‡‡ And at the conclusion of this period, we find Demetrius at the head of a party, who were alarmed by the progress of the religion, complaining, that "not only at Ephesus, but also throughout all Asia, (i. e. the province of Lydia, and the country adjoining to Ephesus) this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people."§§§ Beside these accounts, there occur, incidentally, mention
Ib. xi. 21, 24, 26. Hist. Christ, b. III. p. 50. lb. xviii 8-10.
Benson, b. II. p. 289. xii. 24. Ib. xiv. 1.
Benson's xvii. 19. ### xix. 20.
of converts at Rome, Alexandria, Athens, Cyprus, Cyrene, Macedonia, Philippi.
This is the third period in the propagation of Christianity, setting off in the seventh year after his ascension, and ending at the twenty-eighth. Now, lay these three periods together, and observe how the progress of the religion by these accounts is represented. The institution, which properly began only after its author's removal from the world, before the end of thirty years, has spread itself throughout 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 Lydia, Saron, the number of converts is intimated by the expressions "a great number," "great multitudes," "much people." Converts are mentioned, without any designation of their number,* at Tyre, Cesarea, Troas, Athens, Philippi, Lystra, Damascus. During all this time, Jerusalem continued not only the centre of the mission, but a principal seat of the religion; for when St. Paul returned thither, at the conclusion of the period of which we are now considering the accounts, the other apostles pointed out to him, as a reason for his compliance with their advice, "how many thousands (myriads, ten thousands) there were in that city who believed."t
Upon this abstract, and the writing from which it is drawn, the following observations seem material to be made:
I. That the account comes from a person, who was himself concerned in a portion of what he relates, and was contemporary with the whole of it; who visited Jerusalem, and frequented the society of those who had acted, and were acting, the chief parts in the transaction. I lay down this point positively; for had the ancient attestations to this valuable record been less satisfactory than they are, the unaffectedness and simplicity with which the author
* Considering the extreme conciseness of many parts of the history, the silence about the numbers of converts is no proof of their paucity: for at Philippi, no mention whatever is made of the number, yet St. Paul addressed an epistle to that church. The churches of Galatia, and the affairs of those churches, were considerable enough to be the subject of another letter, and of much of St. Paul's solicitude, yet no account is preserved in the history of his success, or even of his preaching, in that country, except the slight notice which these words convey-" when they had gone throughout Phry. gia, and the region of Galatia, they assayed to go into Bithynia.” xvi. 6, 7.
+ Ib. xxi. 20.
notices his presence upon certain occasions, and the entire absence of art and design from these notices, would have been sufficient to persuade my mind, that, whoever he was, he actually lived in the times, and occupied the situation in which he represents himself to be. When I say "whoever he was,” I do not mean to cast a doubt upon the name, to which antiquity hath ascribed the Acts of the apostles, (for there is no cause, that I am acquainted with, for questioning it) but to observe, that in such a case as this, the time and situation of the author is of more importance than his name; and that these appear from the work itself, and in the most unsuspicious form.
II. That this account is a very incomplete account of the preaching and propagation of Christianity; I mean, that, if what we read in the history be true, much more than what the history contains must be true also. For, although the narrative from which our information is derived has been entitled the Acts of the apostles, it is in fact a history of the twelve apostles only during a short time of their continuing together at Jerusalem; and even of this period the account is very concise. The work afterwards consists of a few important passages of Peter's ministry, of the speech and death of Stephen, of the preaching of Philip the deacon; and the sequel of the volume, that is, twothirds of the whole, is taken up with the conversion, the travels, the discourses and history, of the new apostle Paul, in which history also large portions of time are often passed over with very scanty notice.
III. That the account, so far as it goes, is for this very reason more credible. Had it been the author's design to have displayed the early progress of Christianity, he would undoubtedly have collected, or, at least, have set forth, accounts of the preaching of the rest of the apostles, who cannot, without extreme improbability, be supposed to have remained silent and inactive, or not to have met with a share of that success which attended their colleagues. To which it may be added, as an observation of the same kind,
IV. That the intimations of the number of converts, and of the success of the preaching of the apostles, come out for the most part incidentally; are drawn from the historian by the occasion; such as the murmuring of the Grecian converts, the rest from persecution, Herod's death, the sending of Barnabas to Antioch, and Barnabas calling Paul to his assistance, Paul coming to a place and finding there disciples, the clamour of the Jews, the complaint of artificers interested
in the support of the popular religion, the reason assigned to induce Paul to give satisfaction to the Christians of Jerusalem. Had it not been for these occasions, it is probable that no notice whatever would have been taken of the number of converts, in several of the passages in which that notice now appears. All this tends to remove the
suspicion of any design to exaggerate or deceive.
PARALLEL TESTIMONIES with the history, are the letters which have come down to us of St. Paul, and of the other apostles. Those of St. Paul are addressed to the churches of Corinth, Philippi, Thessalonica, the church of Galatia, and, if the inscription be right, of Ephesus, his ministry at all which places is recorded in the history; to the church of Colosse, or rather to the churches of Colosse and Laodicea jointly, which he had not then visited. They recognize by reference the churches of Judea, the churches of Asia, and "all the churches of the Gentiles."* In the epistle to the Romans,† the author is led to deliver a remarkable declaration, concerning the extent of his preaching, its efficacy, and the cause to which he ascribes it, to make the Gentiles obedient by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the spirit of God, so that, from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ." In the epistle to the Collossians, we find an oblique, but very strong signification, of the then general state of the Christian mission, at least as it appeared to St. Paul: "If ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven ?"? which gospel he had reminded them near the beginning§ of his letter, "was present with them as it was in all the world." The expressions are hyperbolical; but they are hyperboles which could only be used by a writer who entertained a strong sense of the subject. The first epistle of Peter accosts the Christians dispersed throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.
IT comes next to be considered how far these accounts are confirmed or followed up, by other evidence.
Tacitus, in delivering a relation, which has already been laid before the reader, of the fire which happened at Rome in the tenth year of Nero, which coincides with the thir
* 1 Thess. 11. 14. Rom. xvi. 19. txt. 18. 19. $23. fi.6.
tieth year after Christ's ascension, asserts that the emperor, in order to suppress the rumours of having been himself the author of the mischief procured the Christians to be accused. Of which Christians, thus brought into his narrative, the following is so much of the historian's account, as belongs to our present purpose. "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 they only were apprehended, who confessed themselves of that sect; afterwards a vast multitude were discovered by them." This testimony to the early propagation of Christianity is extremely material.
It is from an historian of great reputation, living near the time, from a stranger and an enemy to the religion; and it joins immediately with the period through which the scripture accounts extend. It establishes these points, that the religion began at Jerusalem, that it spread throughout Judea, that it had reached Rome, and not only so, but that it had there obtained a great number of converts. This was about six years after the time that St. Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans, and something more than two years after he arrived there himself. The converts to the religion were then so numerous at Rome, that of those who were betrayed by the information of the persons first prosecuted, a great multitude (multitudo ingens) were discovered and seized.
It seems probable that the temporary check which Tacitus represents Christianity to have received (repressa in præsens) referred to the persecution at Jerusalem, which followed the death of Stephen; (Acts viii.) and which by dispersing the converts, caused the institution, in some measure, to disappear. Its second eruption at the same place, and within a short time, has much in it of the character of truth. It was the firmness and perseverence of men who knew what they relied upon.
Next in order of time, and perhaps superior in importance, is the testimony of Pliny the younger. Pliny was the Roman governor of Pontus and Bithynia, two considerable districts in the northern part of Asia Minor. The situation in which he found his province, led him to apply to the emperor (Trajan) for his direction, as to the conduct was to hold towards the Christians. The letter, in
This application is contained, was written not quite
ars after Christ's ascension. The president in