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In the twentieth section we read of the breaking out of the persecution, in which St. Stephen was martyred, while testifying the divinity of Christ, and asserting, in the presence of St. Paul, at that time one of his persecutors, that he saw the glory which had been seen by their patriarchal ancestors; and that the crucified Jesus of Nazareth was the personage who appeared with it. The ancient Jews believed that the Angel Jehovah was the manifested God of their fathers; and Stephen, in his dying moments, declared that Jesus of Nazareth, and the Angel Jehovah, were the same being. This was blasphemy to the Jews, who considered our Lord as a man; and it must have shocked the unbelieving zealot, who afterwards became the Apostle of the Gentiles. But the assertion of St. Stephen shews to us yet further, how beautifully the dispensations of God blend one with another, and rest upon the same evidence. St. Paul must have remembered the dying exclamation of the proto-martyr, when he was himself favoured with the opening of the invisible world, and with the appearance of the same Angel Jehovah, Jesus of Nazareth. If St. Paul, as a learned Jew, had been required to select the only evidence which could convince him that Jesus was the Christ; it is probable that he would have demanded the appearance of the Shechinah, and the manifested God of his ancestors. This was vouchsafed to him at his conversion, when the Jesus, whom Stephen saw standing at the right hand of God, appeared to him in the same glory, and told him, "I am Jesus," the manifested God of thy fathers, the Angel Jehovah, "whom thou persecutest."
I have selected a curious dissertation from Vitringa, in the notes to the twenty-fourth section, on a type of St. Paul; which that learned, but strangely speculative writer, discovered in an unsuspected portion of the Old Testa
In consequence of the Pauline persecution, the Apostles
were dispersed from Jerusalem: and the converts, who were probably gifted with miraculous powers for that purpose, every where preached the new religion. The provinces of Judea now received Christianity. Samaria began to abound with converts, to whom the gifts of the Holy Spirit were imparted by the hands of St. Peter and St. John; the Apostles only, as the higher order in the priesthood of Christianity, possessing authority to confer them. From this circumstance the ancient Church confined the power of confirming to the bishops, as the successors of the Apostles, in those ordinary acts of authority, which they considered essential to all Christian Churches. When the provinces of Judea were thus Christianized, the time for appealing to the Jews, and the Proselytes of Righteousness, (among whom was the treasurer of Queen Candace,) appears to have come to its proper termination. The Gospel of St. Matthew was probably now written for the use of the scattered communities; and the Pauline persecution is unexpectedly terminated by the sudden interposition of Divine Providence, in the conversion of its principal agent. This event is related in the thirty-first section.
In the note to the thirty-first section, I have briefly considered the inferences which have been sometimes deduced from the history of St. Paul's conversion, that no man can be a Christian, who does not experience some miraculous change or interposition of a similar nature. It must be remembered, that St. Paul was not the chief of profligates, but chief of the opponents of the Gospel. This is the proper meaning of his appellation, "the chief of sin ners." It is more than questionable, whether the sudden demonstration of the truth of Christianity, which was now enforced on the mind of St. Paul, as the very best and most unsuspicious agent, by whom Christianity might be dispersed with the most effect; can be considered as an argument in favour of the doctrine of the sudden conversions of educated Christians, who are acquainted from
their infancy with the Scriptures, and know why Christ rose from the dead.
With the preaching of St. Paul, the miracles of St. Peter, and the repose of the Churches, this chapter terminates. I have considered at some length the doctrine, and government of the Church at Jerusalem, the model for all succeeding Churches. I have devoted some time to this point, because an attentive perusal of the Holy Scriptures alone, has convinced me, that Jesus Christ is the Lawgiver of nations, as well as the Saviour of individuals. My Bible, my only religion, has taught me, that Christ descended from heaven, neither to form separate congregations of good and devotional individuals-nor to unite the world under one ecclesiastical domination. He came to make every separate kingdom one great religious family; and thus to extinguish over the whole earth, wars abroad, and factions at home, and all political evils, of what kind soever, by religious peace, and mutual love. God wills the present, as well as the future happiness of man: and Christianity, rightly understood, is the sole, and only means, by which the divine object will eventually be accomplished.
X. The time had now fully come, in which the exclusive appeal to the Jews was to cease, and the new dispensation to begin; when the Gospel was to be preached to other nations. This chapter includes the period between the vision of St. Peter, which announced the enlargement of the Church, and the mission of St. Paul to the idolatrous Gentiles. The vision of St. Peter was the commencement of the fulfilment of our Lord's prophecy, "On this rock I will build my Church." The dissertation of Bernard Duysing, in the Critici Sacri, on this subject, is exceedingly curious. Some extracts are given from it in the note, together with the interpretation of Jones of Nayland.
A discussion arose between some distinguished theolo gians in the last century on the Proselytes of the Jews
The first Lord Barrington, adopted, and learnedly de fended the usual opinion, that in addition to the Proselytes of Righteousness, who engaged to fulfil the whole law of Moses; there was also another class, who professed their belief in the God of the Jews, but who did not bind themselves by the more burthensome ceremonial. Dr. Doddridge and Dr. Lardner, and, on the authority of their arguments, Dr. Hales, have differed with Lord Barrington, and asserted the existence of the former Proselytes only. Michaelis, Dr. Graves, Selden, Witsius, Spencer, Schoetgen, Lightfoot, and others, to whom reference is made in the first note, support the opinion of Lord Barrington, though they have not noticed the controversy. I have adopted the general supposition. The existence of a large class of persons, of the same description as Cornelius, who should receive the new religion before it was preached to the idolators of the surrounding country; appears to have been a wise provision for the continuance of that gradual and silent progress, by which Christianity was to be extended through the world.
The second to the fifth sections, relate the particulars of the correspondent visions of St. Peter and Cornelius. In the note to the second, I have considered the opinion which has been espoused by many, of the eternal misery of heathens and infants, on account of their involuntary condition in this life. Till we inherit our immortality, we cannot understand the invisible world; but, may be certain that any inference must be erroneous, however apparently reasonable the steps which lead to it, which thus represents the Deity. Future misery will be the fruit, of which vice and infidelity are the seed and the blossom: and I have no doubt but that the wilful rejecters of Christianity, by the mysterious laws of mind and spirit, will have made for themselves unavoidable grief and woe. Ten talents are given to them, and of these an account must be rendered to the most high God. It is not however neces
sary to believe, that infants, and heathens, will be consigned to everlasting misery; because we cannot comprehend their future destiny.
The new dispensation was not at first generally received. The converts who were scattered from Jerusalem by the Pauline persecution, preached to the Jews only, The Church at Jerusalem was astonished at the intelligence, that the Proselytes of the Gate were to be admitted into the Church; and commissioned Barnabas to make inquiry. Saul, who seems to have been now merely a private, though eminent teacher, is associated with him; and, on their arrival at Antioch, which may be called the first metropolis of the Christian cities, the adherents of the new religion are called, by the now most honourable of all human appellations. Many have been of opinion, that the title of Christian, was given by divine appointment. It seems probable that some designation was necessary, to distinguish the Christians from the Jews, with whom they were at first identified.
Now that the new religion had become so firmly established, that it embraced another large class of persons, the lives of the Apostles ceased to be essential to the existence of the rising Church. They consequently became subject to the plans of their enemies. One of them was put to death: the rest appear to have been scattered from Jerusalem; and the power, which had at first been common to them all, was concentrated in one, who was left at Jerusalem, in the time of the greatest danger, to protect and govern the Church.
I have considered, at greater length than was perhaps necessary, the opinion that St. Peter, after his miraculous escape from prison, was sheltered at Rome. Many Protestant writers have asserted that he was never in that city. The evidence appears to be more favourable to the other supposition; and it is probable that St. Mark's Gospel was