Abbildungen der Seite

of the refurrection of Chrift came forth, as it immediately did; when it was publicly afferted by his difciples, and made the ground and basis of their preaching in his name, and collecting followers to his religion, the Jews had not the body to produce but were obliged to meet the testimony of the apoftles by an answer, not containing indeed any impoffibility in itself, but abfolutely inconfiftent with the fuppofition of their integrity; that is, in other words, inconfiftent with the fuppofition which would refolve their conduct into enthufiafm.



The Propagation of Christianity.

IN this argument, the first confideration is the fact; in what degree, within what time, and to what extent, Chriftianity actually was propagated.


The accounts of the matter, which can


be collected from our books, are as follow: A few days after Chrift's disappearance out of the world, we find an affembly of dif ciples at Jerufalem, to the number of " about one hundred and twenty*;" which hundred and twenty were, probably, a little association of believers, met together, not merely as believers in Chrift, but as perfonally connected with the apoftles, and with one another. Whatever was the number of be

[blocks in formation]

lievers then in Jerufalem, we have no reason to be furprised that fo fmall a company fhould affemble; for there is no proof that the followers of Chrift were yet formed into a fociety, that the fociety was reduced into any order, that it was at this time even underflood that a new religion (in the fenfe which that term conveys to us) was to bę in the world, or how the professors of that religion were to be diftinguifhed from the rest of mankind. The death of Christ had left, we may fuppofe, the generality of his disciples in great doubt, both as to what they were to do, and concerning what was to follow.



This meeting was held, as we have already faid, a few days after Chrift's afcenfion; for, ten days after that event was the day of pentecoft, when, as our history relates, upon a fignal difplay of divine agency attending the perfons of the apoftles, there were added to the fociety" about

*Acts ii. I.


three thousand fouls *" But here, it is not, I think, to be taken, that these three thoufand were all converted by this fingle miracle; but rather that many, who were before believers in Chrift, became now profeffors of Chriftianity: that is to fay, when they found that a religion was to be established, a fociety formed and fet up in the name of Christ, governed by his laws, avowing their belief in his miffion, united amongst themselves, and separated from the reft of the world, by visible distinctions; in pursuance of their former conviction, and by virtue of what they had heard and feen and known of Chrift's hiftory, they publicly became members of it.

We read in the fourth† chapter of the Acts, that, foon after this, "the number of the men," i.e. of the fociety openly profeffing their belief in Chrift," was about five thousand." So that here is an increase of two thoufand within a very fhort time. And it is probable that there were many,

+ Verfe 4.

* Acts ii. 41.

[blocks in formation]

both now and afterwards, who, although they believed in Chrift, did not think it neceffary to join themselves to this fociety; or who waited to see what was likely to become of it. Gamaliel, whofe advice to the Jewish council is recorded A&ts iv. 34, appears to have been of this description; perhaps Nicodemus, and perhaps also Jofeph of Arimathea. This clafs of men, their character and their rank, are likewise pointed out by St. John, in the twelfth chapter of his gofpel: "Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him ; but because of the Pharifees they did not confefs him, left they fhould be put out of the fynagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.". Perfons fuch as thefe, might admit the miracles of Chrift, without being immediately convinced that they were under obligation to make a public profeffion of Chriftianity, at the risk of all that was dear to them in life, and even of life itself*.


* "Befide those who profeffed, and those who rejected and oppofed, Chriftianity, there were, in all pro


« ZurückWeiter »