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this brief period is itself subdivided. For the new dispensation was not communicated to mankind at once, but gradually, and, it would seem, just in proportion as their weak and prejudiced minds could bear it. According to St. Paul's illustration, they were at first fed with milk; and as they gained strength, truths harder of digestion were presented to them. It is quite necessary, therefore, to consider the records of the infant Church with reference to these stages, else we shall be continually startled by apparent inconsistencies: what is the subject of a command in one part, in another appearing, perhaps, as the subject of a prohibition, and what is at one time spoken of as a portion of Christian law, at another being disclaimed and disowned. What indistinctness and confusion, for instance, may be occasioned by the want of some such principle, in attempting to reconcile the decree of the council of Jerusalem, respecting the obligation of Gentile converts to adhere to certain portions of the Jewish ceremonial law, with those passages in St. Paul's writings which expressly condemn such a compliance as sinful!
Some allusion has been already made to this distinction of periods, Three which will now be more fully pointed out.
I.-THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THE JEWS ONLY.
The first instruction of the Holy Ghost was, like that of our 1. Period. Lord, addressed only to the Jews. Of this, the apostles were informed by our Saviour before he left them. “ Ye shall receive Acts i. 8. power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and
shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Precisely in this order was the course of their ministry directed. They preached at Jerusalem until Stephen's martyrdom, and the persecution which ensued dispersed the brethren through the rest of Judæa and Samaria, in which places the word was of course next preached. A.D. 33–41.
II.—THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THE DEVOUT
Notwithstanding the frequent allusions of our Lord to this event, II. Period. notwithstanding his last words respecting the extent of their preaching and witnessing even to the uttermost parts of the earth, the apostles were still as much in the dark on the subject, as they had before been about his death and resurrection, after all his repeated declarations concerning both, As they formerly wondered what the rising from the dead could mean, so they now marvelled, what would be the explanation of the prophecy concerning the call of the Gentiles.
Of these Gentiles there were two descriptions; the idolatrous and unbelieving Gentiles, and those who were termed by the Jews
proselytes of the gate. These latter are designated in the New Acts x 2, 22. Testament as
fearing God,” – testified of by the Jews.' They were those who, in consequence of the dispersion of the Jews through their respective countries, had renounced idolatry, and had become worshippers of the one true God. As a sign and pledge of this change of belief, they conformed to some few observances of the Jewish law. Like the Jews and proselytes of righteousness, they abstained from things offered unto idols, and never used blood as food, or the flesh of any animal strangled, as retaining the blood.10 In opposition, perhaps, to a very general corruption of the moral perception in this respect, they also bound themselves to consider fornication as an offence against the law of God; and, of course, as such to abstain from it. Other portions of the moral code, being already acknowledged by the Gentiles in common with the Jews, were probably on that account not formally enjoined on them.
Next in order to the Jews, it was reasonable that the Gospel should be preached to these, both as being better prepared than the idolaters to receive it, and also because the prejudices of the Jewish converts were less likely to be startled, than if all Gentiles had been at once called. For, if the apostles themselves were at first unable to bear this hard truth, what may we suppose to have been the case with the great mass of Christians? The event, indeed, fully justifies the wisdom of God in this gradual disclosure of his scheme. Although it was not until the seventh year of the Holy Spirit's descent, that any steps were taken for the admission even of the evout Gentiles, yet it was necessary to prepare one apostle especially for the opening of this commission; and this, too, after having so frequently exercised him by divine impulses, as to render him of all others the least. liable to mistake, or to distrust its suggestions, and the rest more likely, from the conspicuous part he had taken, to confide now in his assurance. Even at this late period, then, it was necessary that the Gentile Cornelius, although a man who “ feared God and all his house,” and could appeal for his character to the Jews themselves, should be emboldened by a special revelation to seek for admission into the Church; and that Peter, by a corresponding vision, should be required to lay aside his scruples, and be taught then for the first time to see, that God having cleansed the Gentiles, they were to be received on a footing with the clean and holy Israelites. The pains which he was at to justify his conduct to the Church of Jerusalem, and the opposition which he subsequently encountered, prove the delicate nature of his commission, and the need of some extraordinary and special interference of the Holy Ghost to enforce it. The time which elapsed from the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost to the conversion of Cornelius, forms what may be termed the first period in the dispensation of the Spirit. From this, again, to the further extension of the Gospel kingdom, forms a second distinct period, extending from A.D. 41-45. A.D. 41 to A.D. 45.
Acts x. 2.
10 Miscellanea Sacra;-Essay on the Decree.
Acts xi. 24.
III.-THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THE IDOLATROUS
GENTILES. At that time Paul and Barnabas were called on by a special III. Period. revelation to undertake an extension of spiritual conquest and Acts xiii. dominion, far beyond that with which Peter had been commissioned. It was then seen that the fulness of the time was come for the offer of salvation to the Gentile idolaters. What preparation Barnabas had for this great attempt, we are not informed. It is only said, that he was a “good man, full of faith and of the Holy Ghost. But of St. Paul, as of St. Peter, a special and distinct revelation is recorded: one, indeed, more solemn and mysterious, because involving what he describes as “the mystery, which in other ages was Eph. iii. 5. not made known unto the sons of men, whereof he was made minister. This was the dispensation of the grace of God which was given unto him, and for a right view of which he was taken up into 2 Cor. xii. 2. the third heaven.
That his apostleship to the Gentiles was conferred on him in his second visit to Jerusalem, and by the revelation which he describes as having then received in the temple, is evident from the terms of the command addressed to him, “Make haste and get thee quickly out Acts xxii. of Jerusalem, for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me: and again, “Depart, for I will send thee far hence to the Gentiles,' "delivering thee from the people and from the Gentiles, unto whom Acts xxvi.
17, 18. now I send thee; to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God;" allusions which are manifestly applicable to the idolatrous Gentiles only. For, as to the devout Gentiles, Peter, and Paul himself, had for many years been preaching to them; nor could they be said so properly to be in darkness and under the power of Satan. His appointment, in conjunction with Barnabas, by the Church of Antioch, took place not long after, and, as we know, by the especial command of the Holy Ghost.
From this time the ministry of the Spirit appears to have been directed to three distinct orders of persons; each of which required some slight difference of discipline and government, although the doctrines of Christianity were alike imparted to all. The Jews compose the first, whether Jews by birth or proselytism. To these, and it would seem to these alone, ministered all the apostles, except Peter, Paul, and Barnabas, who had also special commissions. The second are the devout Gentiles, who were first intrusted to the ministry of Peter, and afterwards included in Paul's charge also.
», 18, 21
Acts i, 26,
49; Acts i. 4.
The last are the idolatrous Gentiles, to whom Paul and Barnabas alone of all the apostles were sent, but more especially, as it would seem from the memoirs of their labours, Paul.
This stage in the administration of the Spirit will be found to A.D. 45–70. comprehend a period of twenty-five years, extending from A.D. 45,
when St. Paul received his apostleship, to A.D. 70, when Jerusalem was taken, the Jewish polity dissolved, and the grounds on which the above-mentioned distinctions were founded were for ever removed.
THE APPOINTMENT OF MATTHIAS TO BE AN APOSTLE. Between the ascension of our Lord and the coming of the Comforter, a short interval of ten days occurs, during which the only measure taken for the furtherance of Christianity was the election of an apostle in the room of Judas. This pause in the work of God may have been intended to mark more strongly the distinction, between the former and latter ministration—that of Jesus, which was now completed, and that of the Comforter, which was to succeed.
That this intermission was not accidental, at least, but part of the Luke xxiv. general scheme of Providence, was expressly declared to the dis
ciples by their Master. They remained inactive by his command.
This interval, then, was only marked by the repair of that portion of the Church's preparatory structure which had been injured by the fall of Judas. An apostle was wanting to complete “the twelve,” as they were emphatically styled. Peter accordingly proposed to his fellow apostles and the other disciples, (who, to the number of one hundred and twenty men, were collected in an upper room, for fear of the Jews,) the expediency—or shall we rather say, he explained to them, that it was the will of Heaven?—that another disciple should supply the vacancy. As yet, it must be borne in mind, of the two offices of an apostle, that only with which they had been invested by Christ was known. As yet they were only wit
nesses, or, as they are often called, in allusion to the most material Acts i. 8, 22. circumstance in their evidence, " witnesses of the resurrection.'
Two, therefore, qualified for this office by their constant attendance on the Lord, were presented as candidates; and the choice fell on Matthias in preference to Joseph, who was surnamed Barsabas.
The mode in which this election was conducted has not been viewed in the same light by all, the sacred narrative admitting, certainly, great variety of interpretation. Mosheim supposes that the election was made by the suffrages of the assembled Christians, the apostles having previously nominated the candidates. Others understand the nomination to have been made by the assembly, and the decision by the rival candidates drawing lots. This latter, which is the more usual view of it, seems also, on a careful consideration of all the circumstances, to be the true one. For,
11 De Rebus Christianorum ante Const. Magn. p. 78.
First, the election is expressly referred to the Lord, who had himself appointed all the other apostles, and who, even after the dispensation of the Spirit had commenced, manifested himself when a further apostolic appointment was to be made. They prayed and said, “ Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show whether Acts i. 24. of these two thou hast chosen.' Add to this, that the assembly was not inspired, for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, and therefore could not know what was the Divine will and pleasure. Mosheim's conjecture throughout proceeds on a forgetfulness of this circumstance, which makes this so materially to differ from any congregation of primitive Christians assembled after the descent of the Spirit. Whether the apostles or the assembly proposed the two candidates a point which the narrative leaves doubtful—cannot with this view of the case, then, be of
moment. 12 Another still more cogent reason there is for considering the question of the nomination immaterial, as to any argument which may be founded on it respecting the constitution of the primitive assemblies. The rule was laid down, according to which the qualification for a candidate was to be ascertained. So that whether the expression “they appointed” (Cornouy) refers to the apostles, or to the whole assembly, it seems certain, that they did no more than ascertain who, out of all then present, possessed the great qualification for an apostle,—the claim of having been constantly in attendance on the Lord from his baptism until his death. What if Matthias and Barsabas were the only two of that whole assembly who, besides the apostles, were so circumstanced? This is indeed extremely probable. First, because the number of those who had been constantly with Jesus from the very beginning of his ministry could not have been very great. Secondly, because those few, being from that very circumstance more known and marked by the Jews, and more certainly obnoxious to persecution, would be the most
12 The terms of the narrative strongly favour the popular opinion and militate against Mosheim's; notwithstanding his proposed accommodation of the text to his view. In the phrase, idaray rangous. αυτών he reads αυτών. But the chief obstacle lies not here, but in the construction of the sentence contained in ver. 26. In our translation it is, “ The lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven.” The meaning of the former part of the sentence in the original is more properly, perhaps, "the office fell to Matthias. But this does not affect the point to which I am adverting, which is, that the two acts are given as separate. First comes the choice or election of Matthias, and then his being numbered with the eleven. Now the Greek word, which has been rendered “numbered with,” is ouy naten pioon: a word which expresses the act of
an assembly, and that by vote, faços. Is it not, then, natural to conclude that St. Luke meant to say, that Matthias having been first chosen by the Lord's extraordinary interference, the assembly joined in or followed up the election, (for that is the force of the συν in συγκατεψηφίσθη) ? Their proceeding with certain forms after the election had taken place, no more implied that they were the electors, than the usage of the Holy Ghost's descent after baptism, authorizes us to explain away the account of Cornelius's baptism, because in this instance it preceded it. A case directly in point is that of St. Paul, who was, like Matthias, an apostle especially appointed by the will of God and not of man;" yet it was, doubtless, after that appointment that he was invested with the office by the Church of Antioch, and by prayer and imposition of hands commended to the grace of God.