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bodies for gain. This determination Paul and Barnabas returned with, and the disturbance ceased in the church at Antioch, though the dispute was again renewed in divers places, and gave the apostles much trouble, as we shall find in the Epistles.
As to what follows in this book, we have not the particular account of all the apostles? travels, and planting churches ; but chiefly of what relates to St. Paul, whose companion the writer was. And, first, we find that Paul and Barnabas agree to visit the several churches they had before planted; but, though good men, there happened a contention about taking one John with them, which occasioned them to part, and go several ways : but the providence of God is to be observed in this, the church being more enlarged afterwards by their separate labours.
The xvi, xvii, xviii, xix, and xxth chapters give an account of St. Paul's further preaching the Gospel in several countries and cities, many thousand miles distant; travelling for that purpose by sea and land, from east to west, for about seven years, through many difficulties and hardships, planting the Gospel in many parts of the Lesser Asia ; and in Europe, as in divers parts of Greece, chiefly in the cities of Thessalonica and Corinth; the Holy Ghost assisting him, and confirming his words by divers miracles.
Nor did he only travel up and down to preach and establish the Christian doctrine, but also wrote Epistles to several of the churches which himself or others had at first planted; whereby, though absent, he might, as occasion was offered, admonish, comfort, instruct, or confirm them. His great care, and compassionate concern for the Christian churches, may be observed by his farewell speech when he left Asia , and in several parts of his Epistles. His zeal also to do and suffer the utmost in the cause of
Christ appears, in that it being foretold him by the Spirit, speaking by Agabus a prophet, that he should be bound at Jerusalem, and delivered up to the Gentiles; he was yet ready not to be bound only, but to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus'.
And indeed, as he was designed for extraordinary service to the church, so he was encouraged in an extraordinary manner; for though he was not converted till after Christ's ascension, and so had not the happiness of conversing with our Lord Jesus on earth, as the other apostles; yet in a vision he had a glimpse of the heavenly joys, being caught up to the third heaven, where he saw and heard things unutterable". The prospect of which unspeakable glory, no doubt, made him so earnest in his ministry, and so to neglect the world and this life, that he desired to be dissolved, and to be with Christ ; and till that blessed time should come, he went on in his office of publishing the Gospel, and, notwithstanding the danger foretold, at length came to Jerusalem.
What became of St. Paul' afterwards, we read in chap. xxi. 17. to the end of the Acts, viz. that being come to Jerusalem, he was apprehended and brought before the council, or Sanhedrim, and was in danger of being murdered by the unbelieving Jews; but God encouraged and delivered him. Afterwards, he pleaded for himself, and accounted for his doctrine and life, before the procurators or governors, Felix and Festus, and also before King Agrippa : but after about two years imprisonment at Cæsarea, under the Roman governors, he appealed to the emperor, which occasioned his being sent prisoner to Rome. On the sea, he was miraculously preserved in a shipwreck. Being at length arrived at Rome, he was suffered to
dwell in a private house. First, he betook himself (as heretofore in other places) to the Jews that were then at Rome, endeavouring to convince them that Jesus was the Messiah and Saviour: some he gained, others rejected his doctrine: then he turned to the Gentiles, and continued there two years. It was about twenty-eight years after Christ's ascension, when St. Paul was brought prisoner first to Rome. Here ends the history of the Acts.
The church writers give us some further account of St. Paul's and other apostles' travels up and down the world, in propagating the Gospel. They converted many countries; the Lord Jesus assisting them from heaven, and the Holy Spirit comforting them in all their troubles, and enabling them with power and efficacy to publish the glad tidings of salvation; so that in less than forty years space, the Gospel was preached throughout all the then known world. At length they sealed their doctrine with their blood, all of them in one place or other suffering death, except St. John, who also was condemned, and cast into a vessel of boiling oil, but miraculously delivered
The holy Apostles, like their blessed Master, the Lord Jesus, bearing their cross here, and fulfilling their ministry, obtained a crown of eternal life.
Among other countries, our British isles were early enlightened, and blessed with the knowledge of the Gospel of salvation ; and that by the preaching of some one of the apostles, as the ancients affirmo; however, in the apostolical times. O ! let us adore and praise God for his infinite goodness towards us, and yield ourselves as that good ground, on which the word of life is sown, that we may bring forth good fruit unto eternal bliss. Amen.
Euseb. Demonstr. Evangel. I. iü. c. 7. apud Stillingfleet's Orig. Britan. c. 1. p. 35.
1st, THAT the all-wise and powerful God brought to pass his design, in publishing the Gospel, and propagating the Christian religion, notwithstanding all the power and malice, and violence of the unbelieving Jews, or the Gentiles; and that without any human assistance or force of arms, any conquests over foreign countries, or the death of its enemies; but by the sufferings of its blessed Author himself, and most of those who bare witness to it; which is a good evidence, that Christ is that stone cut out of the mountain without hands*, because he it was that set up his spiritual kingdom without any earthly means. Here also we see from what small beginnings the Christian church was at first established in the world, viz. from one hundred and twenty assembled in an Y upper room, which so increased, that one of the ancients, in the very next age to the apostles, mentioned 2 the churches of Germany, Gaul, Spain, the East, Egypt, Libya, besides Jerusalem,
and the countries near it; and this was according - to our Saviour's parable relating hereunto, that the
kingdom of heaven, or the propagating of the Gospel, was like a grain of small mustard-seed growing up to a great tree, (as in those countries it did b.) So that nothing can be more evident, than that this effect of preaching the Gospel was truly miraculous, and the work of God. It is true, when the principles of a religion are suited to the lusts and interests, and wishes of men, as were those of the impostor
* In Dan. ii. 34, 45. y Chap. i. 13, 15. See what is said of the upper room on Dan, vi. z Irenæus, I. i. c. 6. et not. ibid. a Matt. xiii. b Lightfoot Hor, in Matt, xiii. 32. Mahomet, it comes so recommended, that it is no wonder it should be greedily received; or when the doctrine is supported by persons in power and authority, and is either forced on men by threats and punishments, or makes its way by rewards and interests, (as the Mahometan religion did,) the cause of its spreading may easily be accounted for ; but when, on the contrary, the doctrine appears harsh to men's natures, and they are beforehand forewarned of the danger of entertaining it, with the loss of whatever conduces to the outward comforts of life, or even life itself; and also the promoters of such doctrine appear mean and contemptible, and, instead of obtaining help from, are by all possible methods opposed by, the powers of the world, and those who are eminent either for authority or learning, as was the case of the Gospel; the Divine power and virtue must be supposed to attend its progress.
And further, this suggests to us a plain confirmation of the truth of the miracles being wrought by the apostles, in their first planting of the Gospel of Christ, (and they who are not convinced of the truth of them, must allow it to be the greatest miracle that ever it was planted at all ;) for as the very being of the world, when created, is a proof that it was at first miraculously created; so this wonderful spreading of the profession of the Gospel is equally a proof that it was miraculously propagated; otherwise it was not possible it should be so speedily and effectually done, considering the nature of the religion, the weakness of the instruments in themselves, and the opposition made against them.
2dly, That God's best servants may undergo much trouble in this world, witness the labours and afflictions of the apostles.
3dly, We learn here the establishment and practice of the first Christian church, the members whereof were entered into the church by baptism ; they had