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"by these hiftorians."-But even allowing all that incredulity can urge-that in the great calamities of war, and famin, and peftilence, the people always grow fuperftitious, and are ftruck with religious panics;—that they fee nothing then but prodigies and portents, which in happier feafons are overlooked;-that fome of thefe appear to be formed in imitation of the Greek and Roman hiftorians, as particularly the cow's bringing forth a lamb;-that armies fighting in the clouds, feen in calamitous times in all ages and countries, are nothing more than meteors, fuch as the aurora borealis; -in fhort, allowing that fome of these prodigies were feigned, and others were exaggerated, yet the prediction of them is not the lefs divine on that account. Whether they were fupernatural, or the fictions only of a difordered imagination, yet they were believed as realities, and had all the effects of realities, and were equally worthy to be made the objects of prophecy. Fearful fights and great figns from heaven they certainly were, as much as if they had been created on purpose to astonish the earth.
But notwithstanding all these terrible calamities our Saviour exhorts his difciples not to be troubled. The Jews may be under dreadful apprehenfions, as they were particularly in the cafe of Caligula above mentioned; but be not ye troubled, for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet, but the deftruction of Jerufalem is not yet. All these are only the beginning of forrows (ver. 8.) apxn worry. Great troubles and calamities are often expreffed in fcripture-language metaphorically by the pains of travelling women. All these are only the first pangs and throws, and are nothing to that hard labor which fhall follow.
From the calamities of the nation in general, he paffeth to thofe of the Chriftians in particular: and indeed the former were in great meafure the occafion of the latter; famins, peftilences, earthquakes, and the like calamities being reckoned judgments for the fins of the Chriftians, and the poor Chriftians being often maltreated and perfecuted on that account, as we learn from
fome of the earlieft apologifts for the Chriftian religion. Now the calamities which were to befall the Chriftians were cruel perfecutions, (ver. 9.) Then fhall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and fhall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all nations, not only of the Jews but likewife of the Gentiles, for my name's fake. St. Mark and St. Luke are rather more particular. St. Mark faith (XIII. 9, 11.) They fhall deliver you up to councils; and in the fynagogues ye shall be beaten, and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my fake, for a teftimony against them. But when they fhall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatfoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghoft. St. Luke faith (XXI. 12, 13, 14, 15.) But before all thefe they shall lay their hands on you, and perfecute you, delivering you up to the fynagogue, and into prifons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's fake. And it fhall turn to you for a teftimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before, what ye shall answer. For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adverfaries fhall not be able to gainsay nor refift. We need look no farther than the Acts of the Apoftles for the completion of thefe particulars. There are instances enow of the fufferings of fome Chriftians, and of the deaths of others. Some are delivered to councils, as Peter and John. (IV. 5, &c.) Some are brought before rulers and kings, as Paul before Gallio, (XVIII. 12.) Felix, (XXIV.) Feftus and Agrippa. (XXV.) Some have a mouth and wisdom which all their adverfaries were not able to gainsay nor refift, as it is faid of Stephen, (VI. 10.) that they were not able to refift the wisdom and the spirit by which he fpake, and Paul made even Felix to tremble, (XXIV. 25.) and the gofpel ftill prevailed against all oppofition and perfecution whatever. Some are imprifoned, as Peter and John. (IV. 3.) Some are beaten, as Paul and Silas. (XVI. 23.) Some are put to death, as Stephen. (VII. 59.) and James the brother of John. (XII. 2.) But if we would look farther, we have a more melancholy proof of the truth of this prediction, in
the perfecutions under Nero, in which (befides number lefs other Chriftians) fell thofe (1) two great champions of our faith, St. Peter and St. Paul. And it was nominis prælium, as (2) Tertullian calleth it; it was a war againft the very name. Though a man was poffeffed of every human virtue, yet it was crime enough if he was a Chrif tian; fo true were our Saviour's words, that they fhould be hated of all nations for his name's fake.
But they were not only to be hated of all nations, but were also to be betrayed by apoftates and traitors of their own brethren, (ver. 10.) And then fhall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and fhall hate one another. By reafon of perfecution many shall be offended, and apoftatize from the faith; as particularly thofe mentioned by St. Paul in his fecond Epiftle to Timothy, (I. 15.) Phygellus and Hermogenus, who with many others in Afa turned away from him, and (VI. 10.) Demas who forfook him, having loved this prefent world. But they fhall not only apoftatize from the faith, but also fhall betray one another, and fhall hate one another. To illuftrate this point we need only cite a fentence out of Tacitus fpeaking of the perfecution under Nero. At first, fays (3) he, feveral were feifed who confeffed, and then by their discovery a great multitude of others were convicted and barbarously executed.
Falfe teachers too and falfe prophets were to infest the church, (ver. 11.) And many false prophets fhall rife, and Jhall deceive many. Such particularly was Simon Magus, and his followers the Gnoftics were very numerous. Such alfo were the Judaizing teachers, falfe apoftles, as they are called by St. Paul, (2 Cor. XI. 13.) deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Chrift. Such alfo were Hymeneus and Philetus, of whom the apoftle complains (2 Tim. II. 17, 18.) that they affirmed the refurrection to be past already, and overthrew the faith of fome.
(1) Eufeb. Ecclef. Hift. Lib. 2. Cap. 25.
(2) Tertull. Apol. Cap. 2. p. 4. Edit. Rigaltii. Paris. 1675.
(3) Primò corfepti qui fatebantur,
deinde indicio eorum multitudo in
gens convicti funt. Et pereuntibus addita ludibria, &c. Tacit. Annal. Lib. 15. p. 128. Edit. Lipfii.
The genuin fruit and effect of these evils was lukewarmness and coolnefs among Christians, (ver. 12.) And. becaufe iniquity fhall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. By reafon of thefe trials and perfecutions from without, and these apoftacies and falfe prophets from within, the love of many to Chrift and his doctrin, and alfo. their love to one another, fhall wax cold. Some shall openly defert the faith, (as ver. 10.) others fhall corrupt it, (as ver. 11.) and others again (as here) fhall grow indifferent to it. And (not to mention other inftances) who can hear St. Paul complaining at Rome (2 Tim. IV. 16.) that at his firft anfier no man flood with him, but all men forfook him; who can hear the divine author of the Epiftle to the Hebrews exhorting them (X. 25.) not to forfake the affembling of themselves together, as the manner of fome is; and not conclude the event to have futficiently juftified our Saviour's prediction ?
But he that fhall endure unto the end; (ver. 13.) but he who fhall not be terrified by these trials and perfecutions; he who thall neither apoftatize from the faith himself, nor be feduced by others; he who fhall not be athamed to profefs his faith in Chrift, and his love to the brethren; the fame fhall be faved, faved both here and hereafter. There shall not an hair of your head perifh, as it is in St. Luke: (XXI. 18.) and indeed it is very remarkable, and was certainly a moft fignal act of providence, that none of the Chriftians perifhed in the deftruction of Jerufalem. So true and prophetic alfo was that affertion of St. Peter upon this fame occafion, (2 Pet. II. 9.) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptu
But notwithstanding the perfecutions and calamities of the Chriftians, there was to be an univerfal publication of the Gofpel before the deftruction of Jerufalem, (ver. 14.) And this gospel of the kingdom (this gofpel of the kingdom of God) Jhall be preached in all the world, for a witnefs unto all nations, and then jhall the end come; and then fhall the deftruction of Jerufalem and the end of the Jewish polity come to pafs; when all nations fhall be or may be convinced of the crying fin of the Jews in crucifying the Lord of glory, and of the justice
of God's judgments upon them for it. The Acts of the Apostles contain only a small part of the hiftory of a fmall part of the Apoftles; and yet even in that hif tory we fee, the gofpel was widely diffeminated, and had taken root in the most confiderable parts of the Roman empire. As early as in the reign of Nero, (4) the Chriftians were grown fo numerous at Rome, as to raife. the jealoufy of the government, and the firft general perfecution was commenced against them under pretence of their having fet fire to the city, of which the emperor himself was really guilty, but willing to transfer the blame and odium upon the poor innocent Chriftians. Clement, who was a contemporary and fellow-laborer with St. Paul, (5) fays of him in particular, that he was a preacher both in the eaft and in the weft, that he taught the whole world righteoufnefs, and travelled as far as to the utmoft borders of the weft: and if fuch were the labors of one apoftle, though the chiefeft of the apoftles, what were the united labors of them all? It appears indeed from the writers of the hiftory of the church, that before the deftruction of Jerufalem the gofpel was not only preached in the leffer Afia, and. Greece, and Italy, the great theatres of action then in the world; but was likewife propagated as far northward as Scythia, as far fouthward as Ethiopia, as far eastward as Parthia and India, as far weftward as Spain and Britain. Our ancestors of this iland feem to have lain as remote from the fcene of our Saviour's actions as almoft any nation, and were a (6) rough inhofpitable people, as unlikely to receive fo civilized an inftitution as any people whatever. But yet there is (7) fome probability, that the gospel was preached here by St. Simon the apoftle; there is much greater probability, that it was preached here by St. Paul; and there is abfolute certainty that Christianity was planted in this country in the days of
(4) Tacit. Annal. Lib. 15.
(5) κηρυξ γενόμενος εν τε τη αναβολη και εν τη δυσεύ, δικαιοσυνην διδαξας όλον τον κόσμον, και επι το τέρμα της δύσεως ελθών. Præco faftus in oriente ac occidente.-totum mundum docens juftitiam, et ad occidentis terminum
veniens. Clem, Epift. ad Corinth. I. Cap. 5.
(6) Britannos hofpitibus feros. Hor. Od. III. IV. 33.
(7) See Stillingfleet's Origines Britannica. Chap. 1. Collier's Ecclef. Hift. Book 1. Ufferii Britan. Ecclef. Antiquitates. Cap, 1, &c,