« ZurückWeiter »
ly; for, had the ancient attestations to this i valuable record been less satisfactory than they are, the unaffectedness and fimplicity with which the author notices his presence upon certain occasions, and the entire absence of art and design from these notices, would have been sufficient to persuade my mind, that, whoever he was, he actually lived in the times, and occupied the situation, in which he represents himself to be. When I say “ whoever he was," I do not mean to cast a doubt upon the name to which antiquity hath ascribed the Acts of the Apostles (for there is no cause, that I am acquainted with, for questioning it), but to observe, that, in such a case as this, the time and situation of the author is of more importance than his' name; and that these appear from the work itself, and in the most unsuspicious form.
II. That this account is a very income plete account of the preaching and propagation of Christianity; I mean, that, if what we read in the history be true, much more
than what the history contains must be true also. For, although the narrative from which our information is derived has been entitled the Acts of the Apostles, it is in fact a history of the twelve apostles only during a short time of their continuing together at Jerusalem; and even of this period the account is very concise. The work afterwards · consists of a few important passages of peo
ter's ministry, of the speech and death of Stephen, of the preaching of Philip the deacon; and the sequel of the volume, that is, two thirds of the whole, is taken up with the conversion, the travels, the discourses and history of the new apostle Paul, in which history also large portions of time are often passed over with very fcanty notice.
III. That the account, so far as it goes, is for this very reason more credible. Had it been the author's design to have displayed the early progress of Christianity, he would undoubtedly have collected, or, at least, have
fet forth, accounts of the preaching of the · rest of the apostles, who cannot, without ex
) treme improbability, be supposed to have remained silent and inactive, or not to have met with a share of that success which attended their colleagues. To which may be added, as an observation of the same kind,
IV. That the intimations of the number of converts, and of the success of the preaching of the apostles, come out for the most part incidentally; are drawn from the historian by the occasion; such as the murmuring of the Grecian converts, the rest from persecution, Herod's death, the sending of Barnabas to Antioch and Barnabas calling Paul to his affistance, Paul coming to a place and finding there disciples, the clamour of the Jews, the complaint of artificers interested in the support of the popular religion, the reason assigned to induce Paul to give fatisfaction to the Christians of Jerusalem. Had it not been for these occasions, it is probable that no notice whatever would have been taken of the number of converts, in several of the passages in which that notice now appears. All this tends to remove VOL. II.
the suspicion of a design to exaggerate or deceive.
PARALLEL TESTIMONIES with the hiftory, are the letters which have come down to us of St. Paul, and of the other apostles. Those of St. Paul are addresfed to the churches of Corinth, Philippi, Thessalonica, the church of Galatia, and, if the inscription be right, of Ephesus, his ministry at all which places is recorded in the history ; to the church of Colosse, or rather to the churches of Colosse and Laodicea jointly, which he had not then visited. They recognize by reference the churches of Judea, the churches of Asia, and “ all the churches of the Gentiles *.” In the epistle † to the Romans, the author is led to deliver a remarkable declaration concerning the extent of his preaching, its efficacy, and the cause to which he ascribes it, “ to make the Gentiles obedient by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of
* i Theil. ii. 14. ';
* Rom. xv. 18, 19.
the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” In the epistle to the Colossians *, we find an oblique but very strong signification of the then general state of the Christian mission, at least as it appeared to St. Paul : “ If ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and bè not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is una der heaven;" which gospel, he had reminded them near the beginning op of his letter, “ was present with them as it was in all the world,” The expressions are hyperbolical; but they are hyperboles which could only be used by a writer who entertained a strong sense of the subject. The first epistle of Peter accofts the Christians dispersed throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.