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tion, an intermission about this time took place in the sufferings of the Christians. This happened, at the most only seven or eight, perhaps only three or four, years after Christ's death. Within which period, and notwithstanding that the late persecution occupied part of it, churches, or societies of believers, had been formed in all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria ; for we read that the churches in these countries « had now rest, and were edified, and, walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.”* The original preachers of the religion did not remit their labours or activity during this season of quietness ; for we find one, and he a very principal person amongst them, passing throughout all quarters. We find also those, who had been before expelled from Jerusalem by the persecution which raged there, travelling as far as Phænice, Cyprus, and Antioch ;t and, lastly, we find Jerusalem again the centre of the mission, the place whither the preachers returned from their several excursions, where they reported the conduct and effects of their ministry, where questions of publick concern were canvassed and settled, from whence directions were sought, and teachers sent forth.
The time of this tranquillity did not, however, continue long. Herod Agrippa, 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 sieze, 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, miraculously, and made his escape from Jerusalem.
consternation thereby excited in the minds of the Jewish people ; which consternation for a season suspended every other contest. * Acts ix. 31.
+ Acts. xi. 19. # Acts xii. 1.
These things are related, not in the general terms under which, in giving the outlines of the history, we have here mentioned 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 tells us. 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 councils 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 any 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
* Acts xii. 3-17.
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 amongst the earliest members of the society at Jerusalem, and amongst the immediate adherents* of the twelve apostles, 'set out from Antioch upon the express 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. These two men, though not themselves original apostles, were acting in connexion and conjuction with the original apostles ; for, after the completion of their journey, being sent upon a particular commission to Jerusalem, they there related to the apostless and elders the events and success of their ministry, and were, turn, recommended by them to the churches, " as men who had hazarded their lives in the cause."
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 re
Acts iv. 36. • Ibid. v. 50.
† Acts xiii. 2.
Acts xv. 12-26.
S Acts xiv. 5.
tire 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. 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 admitting them within his doors. Their reception at the next city was something better : but neither here had they continued long, before their turbulent adversaries, the Jews, excited against them such commotions amongst the inhabitants, as obliged the apostle to make his escape by a private journey to Athens. The extremity of the progress was Corinth.
Acts xvi. 11.
* Acts xvii. 1-5.
| Ibid. v. 23, 24, 33.
$ Ibid. v. 13,
His abode in this city, for some time, seems to have been without molestation. At length, however, the Jews found means to stir up an insurrection against him, and to bring him before the tribunal of the Roman president. * It was to the contempt which that magistrate entertained for the Jews and their controversies, of which he accounted Christianity to be one, that our apostle owed his deliverance.t
This indefatigable teacher, after leaving Corinth, returned by Ephesus into Syria ; and again visited Jerusalem, and the society of Christians in that city, which, as hath been repeatedly observed, still continued the centre of the mission. It suited not, however, with the activity of his zeal to remain long at Jerusalem. We find him going from thence to Antioch, and, after some stay there, traversing once more the northern provinces of Asia Minor." This progress ended at Ephesus ; in which city the apostle continued in the daily exercise of his ministry two years, and until his success, at length, excited the apprehensions of those who were interested in the support of the national worship. Their clamour produced a tumult, in which he had nearly lost "his life. Undismayed, however, by the dangers to which he saw himself exposed, he was driven from Ephesus only to renew his labours in Greece.** After passing over Macedonia, he thence proceeded to his former station at Corinth.tt When he had formed his design of returning by a direct course from Corinth into Syria, he was compelled by a conspiracy of the Jews, who were prepared to intercept him on his way, to trace back his steps through Macedonia to Philippi, and from thence to take shipping into Asia. Along the coast
Acts xviii. 12. # Ibid. y. 22.
§ Ibid. v. 23. ** Ibid. v. 29, 31.
tŤ Acts xx. 1.
+ Ibid. v. 18.
f Acts xis. 1, 9, 10.