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twenty. Acts i. 15. "And in those days, Peter stood in the midst of the disciples; the number of the names being about a hundred and twenty.' This number will appear to you extremely small; but I think it is not to be supposed to be the whole number of those who believed in Christ. For first, you will observe, this was only in one city, of Jerusalem. Secondly; it was the number of those who where assembled ; and it is not necessary to suppose, nor probable, that all should be collected upon that occasion who believed in Christ. Thirdly; these were not yet formed into any regular society, so as to be known to, or associate much with, one another. It was not yet either settled or known that the believers in Christ were to meet, or where, or when, or how. The one hundred and twenty, the little knot and association who had gathered themselves together, and joined themselves to the apostles, were probably not merely met together as believers in Christ, but as personally known to and connected with the apostles and one another; all the believers in Jerusalem it could not be, if it was true what St Paul asserts, that Christ appeared to five hundred brethren at once. I can very well conceive that the death of Christ had staggered many of his followers; not that they distrusted the reality of the miracles which they had seen or been informed of, but because they did not see what it tended to ; what was to be done, or what was to be the end and event of all these extraordinary appearances. It did not as yet appear that a new religion was to be set up in the world, or how the professors of that religion were to act, or to be distinguished from the rest of mankind; so that they ceased to be his disciples, because his departure out of the world left them nothing more to do, and nothing more to hope. This assembling of one hundred and twenty was held a few days after his ascension; for forty days after that event was the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost descended upon the apostles, accompanied with miraculous effects; the appearance of fire resting upon them, and the speaking in the audience of the people in a variety of languages, which it was known they understood nothing of before. Upon this memorable day, three thousand were added to the church. But here, as before, I would remark, that it is not to be taken that these three thousand were converted by this single miracle, but rather that many who were before believers in Christ became now professors of Christianity; that is, when they found that a religion was to be established, a society formed and set up in the name of Christ, governed by his laws, professing belief in his name, united amongst themselves, and separated from the rest of the world by many visible distinctions, as baptism, the Lord's supper and the like ; when they found such a community established there, by virtue of their former conviction of what they had seen and heard and known of Christ whilst on earth, they declared themselves members of it. A very little after this, we read in the fourth chapter of Acts, that the number of the men was about five thousand ; so that here is an addition of two thousand in a very little time. Christianity continued to advance at Jerusalem by the same progress; for in the next chapter we read that believers were the more added to the Lord; multitudes both of men and women.' In the sixth chapter we meet with another instance of the increase of the disciples; for we read that the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly, and that a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.'
This I call the first period in the propagation of Christianity. It contains scarcely more than one year from the ascension of Christ ; during which year the preaching of the gospel was confined, so far as we learn, to Jerusalem. And how did it prevail there? They set off with one hundred and twenty ; in one day three thousand were added ; in a short time after that they were increased to five thousand; multitudes, both of men and women, continued to be added ; disciples multiplied greatly, and many of the Jewish priesthood, amongst others, became obedient to the faith. This was the first year's increase, and this was upon the spot where the things were transacted upon which the religion rests.
Christianity now began to spread. By reason of a great persecution against the Christians of Jerusalem, they were all, except the apostles, driven from thence, and scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria ; and wherever they went they carried their religion with them. They that were scattered abroad, went every where preaching the word.' We read that the gospel was preached with great success in Samaria ; first by Philip, and then by Peter and John. Some time after this, namely, three years from Christ's ascension, Paul was converted, and found many others professing Christianity at Damascus; three years after which, that is, six years after the ascension, the churches throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria, were multiplied in the comfort of the Holy Ghost. This I call the second period; and contains four years, as the first did. First; during the first period, Christianity was confined to Jerusalem; in the second, we hear of
it in Samaria and Damascus ; and by the end of that period churches, that is assemblies and societies of Christians, were multiplied throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria.
It is worth observing likewise, that there is reason to believe this is far from a full and complete account of the spreading of Christianity ; for although the work from which we fetch our information be called the Acts of the Apostles, it is not, nor was intended to be, a history of all the apostles; only of a few of the most remarkable transactions of Peter, and the travels and the persecutions of Paul, which after his conversion chiefly indeed employ the history. It is not credible, nor is there the least reason to suppose, that the other apostles, of whom little or no mention is made in this history, were idle all the while, or that their labors wanted success.
Hitherto the preaching of the gospel had been confined to the Jews or Jewish proselytes, and to the Samaritans. It was not known, except to the apostles, that they ought to propose it to any others, or admit any others into their religion. That great mystery, as St Paul calls it, and as it then was, was imparted first to Peter, in the case of Cornelius, afterwards to Paul, upon various occasions, and by the report of the preaching to the Gentiles, and God vouchsafing to accompany the preaching by miracles, it came to be known at length to the other apostles and the whole company of disciples, that God to the Gentiles also granted repentance unto life.' This being understood, and the way being thus opened, the progress of the gospel became rapid and extensive. It was about seven years. after the ascension of Christ that the gospel was first preached to the Gentiles at Cæsarea. Acts x. 44. A year after this, a great multitude were converted at Antioch, as you read in the eleventh chapter; and at Herod's death, which happened in the next year, the word of God grew and multiplied. Two years afterwards, great multitudes, both of the Jews and Gentiles, were converted at Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, as you read in the fourteenth chapter. Three years after this, which brings us to the fourteenth after the ascension, the apostles sent a letter from Jerusalem to the Gentile converts in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, through which countries Paul travelled, and found the churches established in the faith, and increasing in numbers daily. Two years after, great numbers of devout Greeks were arrested at Thessalonica and Berea, and the next year at Corinth. See the eighteenth chapter of the Acts. Five years after this, and twentytwo after the ascension, we find Demetrius complaining at Ephesus, that not only there, but
almost throughout Asia, Paul persuaded and turned away much people. Besides these, notice is incessantly made of converts at fifteen of the principal cities in the ancient world. This is the third period; and sets off in the seventh year after the ascension, and ends at the twentyeighth, and includes nearly nineteen or twenty years, during which there was hardly a city or place in the most populous and flourishing part of the Roman empire which the gospel had not visited, and where it bad not converted 'great multitudes,' a 'great number,' much people;' for these are the expressions almost constantly made
Now lay these three periods together, and see how the matter stands. The institution which began after its author's removal from the earth with one hundred and twenty disciples, assembled in a small room at Jerusalem, by the end of thirty years had spread itself much throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria ; now passing over amongst the Gentiles, and, amongst them, converting numbers, and continually spreading at Iconium, Lystra, Derbe; in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia; at Thessalonica, and Berea; persuading and turning away much people from the religion of their ancestors, at Ephesus, and throughout all Asia ; founding churches or regular societies of professed Christians in Alexandria, Athens, Cyprus, Cyrene, Macedonia, Philippi, Perga, Phænice, Ptolemais, Puteoli, Rome, Lydda, Saron, Tyre, which were all considerable cities, and accounts of converts at all these occur in the Acts of the Apostles, though, as observed above, this book contains little besides the history of Paul, and a small part of Peter's. Six of these societies, it may be presumed, were considerable, as St Paul addressed an epistle to them. Seven ancient churches are also distinguished, or accosted by name, in the book of Revelations; so that St Paul might truly say, as he did about this period, that the gospel had been preached to every nation under heaven, that is, throughout every part of the Roman empire, by themselves or others.
First, then, the scriptures cannot well be suspected of exaggeration in these matters; for they never profess to set off, or even describe, the extent of the religion, but are led to mention these particular incidents ; such as St Paul's coming to a place, and finding the converts ordaining elders, or comforting and establishing the churches, or on some such occasions. Besides that, it would have been a fruitless imposture to have published epistles to christian churches which never existed, or accounts of the establishment of Christianity in places where it had never been heard of.
The scripture history of the propagation of Christianity is followed up, as might be expected, by corresponding accounts of succeeding writers. Clement, of Rome, having known St Paul, and been mentioned in St Paul's epistles, speaking of that apostle, says, “In the East and West he became a preacher of the word, instructing the whole world in righteousness, and penetrating to the extreme regions of the West. This author wrote about sixty years after Christ's ascension. Justin Martyr, who wrote just about one hundred years after the ascension, has these remarkable words; There is not a nation, either Greeks or barbarians, or of any other name, even of those who wander in tribes or live in tents, amongst whom prayers and thanksgivings are not offered to the Father and Creator of the universe by the name of the crucified Jesus.'
Tertullian, a famous writer in defence of Christianity, and who lived about one hundred and fifty years from the ascension, thus appeals to the great men and governors of the Roman empire ; We were but of yesterday,' says he, and we have filled your towns and boroughs, the very camp, the senate, and the forum. He then enumerates the several countries already mentioned as believing in Christ, so far following up the scripture account. To this he adds the Moors and Gætulians of Africa, the borders of Spain, several nations of France, and parts of Great Britain inaccessible to the Romans, the Samatians, Dacians, Germans, and Scythians.
Origen, who wrote about two hundred years after the ascension of Christ, delivers the same account ; 'In every part of the world,' says he ; throughout all Greece ; in all other nations, they are innumerable ; an immense multitude, who having left the laws of the country, and those whom they esteemed gods, have given themselves up to the law of Moses, and the religion of Christ; and this not without the bitterest resentment against them from idolaters, by whom they were frequently put to torture, and sometimes to death. And it is wonderful to observe how, in so short time, the religion has increased, amidst punishments, and death and confiscation, and every kind of torture.'
It is a satisfaction also to find that these accounts are confirmed by the testimony of heathen writers, who either knew nothing of Christianity, or were bitter enemies to it. Four principal writers, who were contemporaries of the apostles, complain in their works of the vast increase of Judaism about their age. There is no doubt but that this was Christianity, which they naturally enough confounded with Judaism. Taci