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law at his mouth*. But then the prophets had an extraordinary power (of whatever tribe they were) of sacrificing and instructing: thus Samuel offered a burnt-offering. And the business of the latter prophets, as well as of the former, was to warn and teach the people. So that this method was most suitable to the great design of converting the Jews, when the Gospel was at first published, that Christ should give some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the body of Christ”.
CHAP. IX. Contents of the Acts of the Apostles. HAVING made these necessary remarks, we may now return to the history contained in the Acts of the Apostles.
In the beginning whereof we read the particular circumstances of our Lord's ascension into heaven; after which the apostles and others (in all about an hundred and twenty) assembled together, and celebrated the public worship of God, and chose Matthias to be one of the number of the twelve, in the room of the traitor Judas; which they did by prayer and lots, since the Holy Ghost was not as yet given in an extraordinary manner to direct them: and by this means (forasmuch as when the lot is cast into the lap, the whole disposing thereof is of the Lorda) the person chosen into the apostleship did not want the characteristic of an apostle, being chosen by the interposition and designation of Christ himself, to whom they prayed for that purpose o.
* Mal. ii. 7. y 1 Sam. vii. Also Elijah, 1 Kings xviii. 2 Eph. iv. 11, 12., a Prov, xvi. 33. b Acts i.
The death of Judas is thus expressed, that falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out : in Matt. xxvii. 5, it is, he departed, and went and hanged himself; that is, he hanged himself, and (probably by the devil's procurement, who had possessed him) fell headlong from the place where he hung, and thereby burst asunder; his unparalleled sin having met with a suitable unheard-of punishment.
Among those who were assembled together after our Lord's ascension, we find Mary the mother of Jesus; which is the last time that she is mentioned in the holy Scriptures. What became of her afterwards is not revealed to us; most likely she continued with St. John to her death, unto whom Christ on the cross had committed the care of hero; Behold thy mother; that is, take care of her, as if she were such. As for her assumption into heaven, (which the Church of Rome commemorates by a solemn festival-day on the 15th of August,) antiquity as well as the scripture is silent; the tracts concerning it are known to be forged in after-ages'. The first account out of any good author is that of Eusebius, and he only says, “Some have wrote that it was revealed to them.” After him Epiphanius, who flourished about the year 368, thus expresses himself concerning it; “ I define nothing, nor say that she remained immortal, and neither do I affirm that she died h.” So that it is plain, he knew nothing that could be depended on concerning her assumption. Lastly, Baronius himself is so tender as to say, “ The church of God is more inclined to believe, that she is now, together with her body, in heaven.”
c Verse 18. d Ver. 14. e John xix. 27. Spanhemius Introduct. ad Historiam N. T. Canon i. 8 In Chronico. h Hæres. 78. Antidicomarianitarum, num. xi. i Martyrolog, Roman. August. 15.
We are next informed in the Acts", that Christ, who had promised the Holy Spirit, performed that promise on the tenth day after his ascension, it being the day of Pentecost, (a feast of the Jews, fifty days after the Passover,) celebrated in memory of the law delivered on mount Sinai ; on the same day the apostles were enabled to publish the new law or gospel, the fulfilling of the old; for when they were all with one accord in one place, the Holy Ghost descended in the likeness of cloven fiery tongues upon the apostles and others, that were to be the first publishers of the Gospel. Whereby a company of illiterate persons were on a sudden enabled to speak unknown languages, and to interpret the tongues of others, among a great multitude of persons of different countries and languages; who being some of them Israelites or Jews of the dispersion, and other proselytes', were then at Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Pentecost: every one of which heard them speak in their own tongues, (whether Hebrew, Chaldee, Persian, Arabic, Greek, Latin, and all the strange and different dialects whatsoever, which they themselves used in their own tongue, wherein they were born; and all this in the name of Christ, and in confirmation of their testimony concerning his resurrection and his being advanced at the right hand of the Father". This was an amazing conviction, and gave a most uncontrollable evidence of a supernatural and divine assistance; this was a full proof that Christ had all power in heaven and in earth given unto him; and hereby the apostles and the first preachers of the Gospel were fitly qualified to declare to all that lived in different parts of the world what Christ had done, and to convert mankind to the Christian faith".
k Chap. ii. 1, &c. Ver. 10. m Ver. 22, &c. pare chap. iv. 31. viii. 17. X. 44, 45, 46. and xi. 15. VOL. II.
The particular effects of this Holy Spirit were, in the first place, an ability of understanding and speaking divers languages, as well to give evidence to a supernatural and divine assistance, (as hath been said,) as to qualify them for preaching to all nations; and also a power of working miracles, by casting out devils, healing diseases, and raising the dead, for the convincing both of Jews and Heathens ; that power being a clear evidence that God was with them, and gave testimony to what they preached and wrote, in pursuance of their commission'. Another gift of the Spirit was, what St. Paul styles the gift of faithp, or the faith of miracles; which consisted in a supernatural confidence or assurance, wrought by the Spirit in the soul of man, by which he was sure he could do such or such miracles, before he attempted to do them : thus", Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains : and', Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles : and this gift was necessary, lest they should attempt to do miracles when they could not, and so discredit their own doctrine and authority.
They had also, by this Holy Spirit, their minds enlightened, clearly to understand divine truth; and the gift of prophesying, or of understanding and teaching the hidden sense and mysteries of the Old Testament relating to Christ, and the state of the Gospels; also the gift of discerning of spiritst, whereby they could discover the truth or falsehood of men's pretensions". And since there were lying wonders, they could discern by whať spirit, whether good or evil, any extraordinary operation was performed, to distinguish the works of the devil from those of the Spirit of God. They had also the gift of boldness and courage in their own hearts, and the power of
• Heb. ii. 3, 4. P i Cor. xii. 9. 9 1 Cor. xiij. 2. * Acts vi. 8. Chap. xix. 6. + 1 Cor. xii. 10. "As Acts viii. 21. * Chap. iv. 13.
speaking, so as that their words might sink into the hearts of their hearersy. They had moreover, by the same Spirit, a power of inflicting bodily punishment upon great and notorious sinners?. Lastly, the apostles had a power to confer those gifts of the Holy Ghost on others, by laying hands on thema.
These were the extraordinary divine assistances, which encouraged the apostles to undertake, and enabled them to go through with so difficult and hazardous an employment. . Note here, That the power by which these miracles were wrought, and which was afterwards communicated to many of the new converts to the faith, is frequently in this book called the Holy Ghost: by which is often meant, not the third person in the Trinity, but the wonderful effusion of those gifts, the dispensation of which is derived from the Holy Spirit, the effects and operations of the Spirit, having often the name of the Spirit, who is the cause of those operations. Thus the converts at Samaria received the Holy Ghost ; that is, the gift of tongues, and other miraculous powers of the divine Spirit.
But if the Holy Ghost was now conferred on the apostles, why doth St. John inform us, that Christ, before his ascension, breathed on them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost' ? This symbol or ceremony of breathing on them in St. John, hath been thought to mean a confirming them in their dependence on Christ's sending to them the Holy Ghost, and in some degree a conferring the same upon them, which we read, in the Acts, to be after Christ's ascension more plentifully sent down. But if we consider the whole passage", As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said
y Chap. ii. 37. z As Acts xiii. 11. 1 Cor. v. 5. 2 Cor. xiii. 2. . Acts viii. 17. b Chap. viii. 15, 16, 17., John XX. 22. a John xx. 21, 22, 23.