« PreviousContinue »
ancient popular legend, which might originate the statement of the elder Pliny, of there being a river in Judea that dries up on the sabbath day.
The popular belief is still firm among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, respecting the flow and ebb of the water; but most modern travellers seem to have regarded it as an idle story, till Dr. Robinson was enabled to establish its truth. From him we have recently had the following account:—“Having been very unexpectedly witness of the phenomenon in question, we are enabled to rescue another ancient historical fact from the long oblivion, or rather discredit, into which it has fallen for so many centuries. As we were preparing to measure the basin of the upper fountain and explore the passage leading from it, my companion was standing on the lower step near the water, with one foot on the step and the other on a loose stone lying in the basin, all at once he perceived the water coming into his shoe, and supposing the stone had rolled, he withdrew his foot to the step, which however, was also now covered with water. This instantly excited our curiosity, and we now perceived the water rapidly bubbling up from under the lower step. In less than five minutes it had risen in the basin, nearly, or quite a foot, and we could heår it gurgling off through the interior passage. In ten minutes more it had ceased to flow, and the water in the basin was again reduced to its former level. Thrusting my staff in under the lower step, whence the water appeared to come, I found that there was here a large hollow space; but no further examination could be made without removing the steps. Meanwhile, a woman of Kefr Selwân came to wash at the fountain ; she was accustomed to frequent the place every day, and from her we learned that the flowing of the water occurs at irregular intervals; sometimes two or three times a day, and sometimes in summer, once in two or three days. She said, she had seen the fountain dry, and men and flocks dependent upon it gathered round and suffering from thirst, when all at once the water would begin to boil up from under the steps, and (as she said) from the bottom in the interior part, and flow off in a copious stream. In order to account for this irregularity, the common people say that a great dragon lies within the fountain; when he is awake he stops the water, when he sleeps it flows.''
The far-famed pool of Siloam is thus to be classed with the ebbing and flowing wells, though it does not appear that any character of periodicality belongs to the phenomenon.
THE GALLERY OF NATURE.
PRINCIPLES OF CHURCH HISTORY.
CHAPTER I.-THE PRIMITIVE APOSTOLIC AGE.
No Christian can have any doubts respecting the Church, so long as he is able to trace the presence of Christ with it. The Lord's personal presence however, can scarcely be said to have ever been with the Church ; for it was not until the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, to dwell for ever afterwards within it, that the Church commenced its divine existence as the Body of Christ; that is, as a community of men animated by the Spirit of Christ as their Head and Life; constituting a real oneness of the Church, and communion of Saints, not only with one another, but with Christ their one Head.
The title, THE BODY OF CHRIST, is repeatedly given to the Church in Holy Scripture, and can signify nothing less than that Christ liveth and dwelleth in the Church, as really as in His glorified human body, wherewith He sitteth at the right hand of the Father. This therefore is true of the Church in all ages; but it is especially and pre-eminently true of the primitive apostolic age ; for the Church was then complete in all its parts; having its chief members and head officers, apostles as well as prophets, endowed with the fulness of Christ's presence with and in them.
Wherefore, whatever doubts any may feel respecting the Church in later ages, there can be none respecting the Church of the Apostles; the faith and practice of the Primitive Apostolic Church, its government and rules, sacraments and other holy rites, must all have been divinely instituted and regulated; so that whatever can be traced up to the Apostles, is thereby at once proved to be right and true, and of divine obligation.
All this is an inevitable inference from first principles which cannot be denied. We need not, however, establish the authority of the Apostles by any inferences, however undeniable. Their authority is still more deeply and impregnably based on the express assurance of their Lord, His solemn declaration, 'As the Father hath sent me into the world, even so send I you into the world. • Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.' "When He, the Spirit of truth is come, He shall guide you into all truth. He that heareth you, heareth me, and he that despiseth you, despiseth me;—and lo! I am with you always, even to the end of the world.'
With these exalted and almost reverential ideas of the Church, as the living temple of the Lord, and even more than that, -as His representative on earth, and mystically His very body; and of the Church of the Apostles in particular, as being all this in the highest and fullest sense : let us now briefly trace the first establishment of the Church, through their office and ministry, as its divinely inspired and even plenipotentiary founders, rulers, and guides.
The proof that they really were thus commissioned, so as in their official character to be even infallible, was displayed in the miracles which they wrought, or rather which the Lord wrought through them and for them. Let us review some of the principal of these miraculous events, and the conclusion at which we must arrive, will be that while the Apostles, in their individual character, were fallible men like ourselves, and with one exception, unlearned and ignorant men, their official character is only the more manifestly divine ; so that whatever they instituted, wrote, or otherwise enjoined, as Apostles, is of Divine authority, and obligatory upon the Church in all ages, as Divine truth, and the Divine Law.
On the day of Pentecost,* how astonishing even to themselves must have been the fulfilment of their Lord's many promises, that they should be endued with power from on high, and that He would Himself be with them, through His Spirit dwelling in them. In one moment they were every one of them enabled to speak all the languages of the surrounding nations, and speak with a power and authority, so evidently divine as to convert 3000 souls
A few days afterwards, when two of their number had been seized and threatened by the infuriated Jewish rulers, the Spirit again descended upon them from heaven, with such mighty power as shook the very house in which they were assembled.
Let us next trace more particularly the miraculous course of the three principal apostles, St. Peter, St. John, and St. Paul. Of the other apostles little comparatively is known. The volume of inspiration is almost silent respecting them, and the early historians of the Church, as far as their now remaining writings go, have recorded little more than that, with one exception, all the apostles, after a more or less miraculous and successful course as preachers of the gospel, and founders of Churches, suffered a violent death, as martyrs for the faith.
* See Doddridge on Inspiration of N. T.
Our Lord had promised that on His going to the Father, his Apostles should be enabled to do greater works even than He Him. self had done while on earth. This seemed impossible, and yet even this was fulfilled, when, as we read in the Book of Acts,
By the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people, insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least, the shadow of Peter passing by, might overshadow some of them...... and they were healed every one.” In obedience to the word of this mightily endowed apostle, Ananias and Sapphira fell down instantly dead; the impotent beggar at the Beautiful gate of the temple leaped and walked; another cripple at Lydda was similarly cured, so that as the inspired historian informs us,“ All that: dwelt in Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord,”— whilst at Joppa, the good widow Dorcas was recalled even from the dead.
And when a still further development of divine power and grace was to be manifested in the opening of the kingdom of heaven to the heathen world, it was to no angelic messenger, but to the apostle Peter that the keys of that kingdom were entrusted, even as his Lord while on earth had promised. 'I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven;' a promise which, whatever further meaning may be in it, had one accomplishment in his being the one who opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. Angelic ministrations were indeed employed, but only in subordination to the apostolic ministry. An angel was sent down from heaven to be the herald of the apostle, and prepare Cornelius to receive him; and as if even an angel must be silent where there was an apostle to speak, the ministering spirit presumes not himself to preach the gospel to Cornelius, but naming the apostle, directs Cornelius to St. Peter, as the great teacher of mankind, and the very oracle of God.
And when, shortly after this, the wicked Herod sought to slay him, on the eve of his intended execution, as he slept between two soldiers, bound with iron chains, an angel filled his dungeon with heavenly light, and struck off his fetters, whilst the barred iron door opened of its own accord. On another similar occasion did the same angelic ministry wait on the apostle, opening the prison door by night, and bringing him out, bidding him “Go stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.” What a definition of apostolic teaching is this!—the words of life; as though the whole life and happiness of the human race depended humanly on the apostles.
With respect to St. John, the very name given him in holy scripture, viz:-the disciple whom Jesus loved,- is sufficient to prove how much of His divine Master's spirit he must have exhibited, how much of His confidence he must have been privileged with. This most saintly saint has ever been known in the Church of Christ, as St. John the divine. Besides the miracles recorded of him in the Acts of the apostles, he is said by Tertullian, to have been thrown into a caldron of boiling oil, by order of the Roman Emperor Domitian, and to have come out unhurt; and when afterwards by this same tyrant banished to the isle of Patmos, he saw those visions of all future time, of heaven, and of eternity, which sum up and conclude the revelation of God. How filled and imbued with Divinity itself must he there have been, whence his Lord caught him up to heaven, revealed Himself to him in His glory, with the condescension of a friend and brother; laying on the apostle his own right hand,—the hand which moves and governs all things,-conversed with him, and dictated word for word the epistles which he was to address to the seven Churches of Asia, in his Lord's name.
Lastly of the three principal apostles, let us consider St. Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles; to whom, probably, our own, as well as most other Gentile churches are indebted for their first foundation, as well as for the greater number of the apostolic epistles, and for the gospel of St. Luke, as having been written under his superintendence.
How distinguished from all other human beings was St. Paul, even in his conversion, by no ordinary miracle, but by the very voice of Jesus himself speaking to him from heaven, revealing to his astonished sight, the majesty of the crucified One; and giving him, by an immediate inspiration, a distinct and full knowledge of the whole gospel, although he had been entirely ignorant of it, until it was thus revealed and made known to him. This most wonderful communication to him of the facts and doctrines of christianity, without any human teaching, and purely by immediate revelation, is a fact expressly asserted by the apostle himself, when he says :-“For the gospel which I preach, I neither received it of men, neither was I taught it, but by revelation of Jesus Christ."
The most astonishing miracles accompanied St. Paul wherever he went, either wrought by himself, or by the Lord for him. Evil spirits were cast out by his command; diseases were cured