Page images

ject more. The discovery of a fifth gospel, would have no more effect than would the discovery of one of the four, had the world been possessed of but three. No man was ever, it is pre. sumed, converted by the consideration that there were four big. tories of Christ rather than three. No man would be converted by five, who is unconvinced by the four.

The Acts of the Apostles, the great history of the early spread of the Gospel, was written by Luke A. D. 63, but it is evidently far from being a full account. The Apostles felt a deep solicitude for the spiritual welfare of the churches which they had planted. They had taught them the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. But these were, in many cases, supplanted by gross errors, introduced by false teachers The standard of morals in that age, was low, and corrupt practices were witnessed among the professed followers of Christ.These circumstances induced the Apostles, Paul, Peter, James, Jude and John, to address letters to these churches, for their instruction, correction and edification. These letters, written under inspiration of the Holy Ghost, form an exceedingly valu. able part of the sacred volume. They unfold the great principles of Christianity, and exhibit all the distinguishing traits of Christian character.*

The last book in the sacred canon, the Revelation of John, was formed in the isle of Patmos, whither he was banished, near the close of life and of the first century, and published soon after his release at Ephesus. Excepting an introduction and description of a vision of Jesus Christ, and an address of commendation and reproof to the seven churches of Asia ; it is a most sublime and wonderful prophetic exhibition of the great events which should occur in the providence of God, es

* Order, time and place in which the Epistles were written.
A. D. Place.

A. D.

Place. 1 Thessalonians, 52, Corinth. Hebrews,

63, Rome. 2 Thessalonians, 52,

do. 1 Timothy, 64, Nicopolis. Galatians, 52,

do. Titus,

64, Macedonia. 1 Corinthians, 57, Ephesus. 2 Timothy, 65, Rome. Romans, 57, Corinth. James,

61, Jerusalem. 2 Corinthians, 58, Philippi. 1 1 Peter,

61, Rome. Ephesians,

Rome. 2 Peter,

65, do. Philippians,

do. 1, 2, 3, John, 80—90, Ephesus. Colossians, 62, do. Jude,

64, do. Philemon,

62, do. Revelations, 96 or 97, do. The subscriptions to the Epistles are spurious, for they are contradicted often by the books themselves.


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

pecially those which relate to his church, of the millenium, and the judgment ; of the eternal happiness of the righteous, and the endless misery of the finally impenitent. The evangelical History, the Epistles and Revelation, are called the New Testament, because they fully unfold God's gracious covenant with his people. It is supposed they were first collected together by John.

That glorious kingdom spoken of by Daniel in his explanation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream; which God was to set up in the most splendid period of the Roman empire ; which was to break in pieces and consume all earthly kingdoms and stand for ever was now firmly established. God has set his king on the holy hill of Zion, and before the close of the first century, subjects were gathered out of almost every people and nation in the known world. Churches were planted from Hindostan to Gaul ; stated means of grace were established and brought in. to operation; an army of missionaries was waging an extermi. nating war against idolatry, and the lusts and passions of men; and the Spirit of God in its resistless energy, was making the word, in their hands, effectual to the conviction and conversion of a multitude whom no man could number.

Such triumphs over sin and hell were not witnessed by the prince of this world, without exciting the most artful, malignant and deadly hostility.

The first opposition which arose against the Church of Christ, was from those to whom the Gospel was first preached; --the Jews, the ancient covenant people of God. A degenera. rate race, holding only the forms of religion; proud, hypocritical and ambitious in the extreme, they had crucified the Lord of glory; and now, when they saw the church arise, in spite of all their efforts to suppress it, and the blood of Christ come upon them and their children, and their Temple worship forsa. ken and priesthood despised, they persecuted the followers of Christ with relentless rage in Jerusalem and throughout. Judea and Galilee, and every country wherever they were in their dispersions. Some, in fulfilment of Christ's prediction, they kill. ed and crucified; others they scourged in their synagogues, and all, they persecuted from city to city,

Such ingratitude, perverseness and rebellion ; such treatment of his Son, his messages of mercy, his Apostles and servants called aloud for the vengeance of God. The divine tience was exhausted. Dear as their fathers had been, God now gave up this people to blindness of mind and hardness of heart, to fill up the measure of their iniquity. He rejected


them and cast them off from being his people, and suffered their enemies to make an utter extermination of their city and nation.

Under Vespasian, the Romans invaded the country and took the cities of Galilee, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, where Christ had been rejected; destroyed the inhabitants and left nothing but ruin and desolation.

Jerusalem was destroyed A. D. 70. Įts destruction was distinctly foretold by Christ; but no tongue can tell the sufferings of its devoted inhabitants. Josephus, who was an eye-witness of them, remarks, “that all the calamities that ever befell any nation, since the beginning of the world, were inferior to the miseries of his countrymen, at that awful period.”

After the death of Herod, the Jews were subject to Roman jurisdiction, but they were divided into violent factions led by profligate wretches, and soon openly revolted from the imperial dominion. Warned by Christ before his crucifixion,* of the storm that was about to burst upon the devoted city, the Chris. tians all fled to Pella, city

eyond Jordan.

On the day of the passover, the anniversary of the crucifixion of Christ, Titus, the Roman general, encamped before Jerusalem with a formidable army.

A tremendous siege ensued. The Jews de. fended themselves with astonishing valour; but they were una. ble long to resist the power of the Roman engines. To acce. lerate the ruin, Titus enclosed the city by a circumvallation, strengthened by thirteen towers, by which the prophecy of Christ was fulfilled, “the days shall come upon thee, when thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee and compass thee around on every side.”+ Then ensued a famine, the like to which the world had never witnessed. An eminent Jewéss, frantic with her sufferings, devoured her infant. Moses had long before predicted this very thing. I “The tender and deli . cate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness ; her eye shall be evil towards her young one and towards her children which she shall bear, for she shall eat them for want of all things, secretly in the siege and straitness wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates.” Hearing of the inhuman deed, Titus swore the eternal extirpation of the accursed city and people.

On the 17th of July, the daily sacrifice ceased, according to the prediction of Daniel,s no proper person being left to minister at the altar.

* Matt. xxiv, 15.

† Luke xix. 43.
$ Daniel ix. 27.

# Deut. xxviii. 56.

CAAP. 3.



The Roman commander had determined to save the Temple, as an honour to himself, but the Lord of Hosts had purposed its destruction. On the 10th of August, a Roman soldier seized a brand of fire, and threw it into one of the windows. The whole Temple was soon in flames. The frantic Jews and Titus himself laboured to extinguish it ; but in vain. Titus entered into the sanctuary, and bore away the golden candlestick, the table of shew bread, and the volume of the law, wrapped up in a rich golden tissue. The complete conquest of Jerusalem ensued. Christ had foretold that “there should be great tribula. tion, such as was not since the beginning of the world.” During the siege, which lasted five months, eleven hundred thousand Jews perished ; 97,000 were taken prisoners. The number de. stroyed during the war, which lasted seven years, is computed at one million four hundred and sixty-two thousand. This city was amazingly strong. Upon viewing the ruins, Titus exclaimed,

have fought with the assistance of God,” The city was completely levelled, and Tarentius Rufus ploughed up the foundations of the Temple. Thus literally were the predic. tions of Christ fulfilled, “thine enemies shall lay thee even with the ground; and there shall not be left one stone upon



The state of the Jews after the destruction of Jerusalem, was indescribably wretched. Indeed, in consequence of the numbers slain and carried captive, and the vast multitude of fugi. tives to other lands, the country was almost depopulated. Only a few women and old men were permitted to remain about Jerusalem. All the land of Judea was sold by an imperial edict, and the tribute was confiscated which had been annually paid to the Temple. They no longer existed as a nation, but were scattered through the earth, and have continued to this day, a wonder, a reproach and a by-word among all nations.

Such were the judgments of heaven, upon the first opposers of the Gospel of Christ.

But the most terrible opposition with which the Gospel met, because supported by the greatest worldly power, was from the Roman Emperors. Every system of religion had been tolerated among Pagan nations, because it tolerated in turn, every other system. But Christianity was an exclusive system. It utterly condemned and discarded all the gods of the heathen as

* Luke, xix. 44.

vanity and a lie, and turned into derision all the absurdities of pagan superstition. It waged an exterminating war against all the sacrifices, temples, images, oracles, and sacerdotal orders of Greece and Rome ; cut off an immense multitude of priests, of augurs, attendants and artists, from their ordinary means of subsistence; and was so simple in its form of worship, having no visible symbol of Deity, as to appear to the common people, little better than Atheism. By the Heathen, therefore, the Christians were accounted a detestable race; and the ingenuity of the priests was employed in increasing the public prejudice against them, by representing them as the cause of all the judgments of Heaven which descended


mankind. Ten general persecutions they are said to have suffered in the early ages of the Church ; besides many that were limited to particular provinces. This exact number, however, it is difficult for us to verify; but we can specify two before the close of the first century, and others at the commencement of the second, in which the number of martyrdoms was prodigiously great, and the sufferings of Christians were beyond description.

The first persecution commenced under Nero, about the year of our Lord 64, and continued about four years. This inhuman monster set fire to the city of Rome, that he might have the pleasure of seeing the conflagration. The odium he incurred nearly cost him his head. To clear himself, he charged it upon the Christians, and inflicted upon them the most awful suffer. ings. The following account given by Tacitus, an heathen historian, is entitled to the fullest credit, and gives us many interesting and valuable particulars. “But neither the emperor's donations, nor the atonements offered to the gods, could re. move the scandal of this report, but it was still believed that the city had been burnt by his instigation. Nero, therefore, to put a stop to the rumour, charged the fact, and inflicted the severest punishments for it upon the Christians, as they were commonly called; a people detestable for their crimes. The author of this sect was Christ, who was put to death by Pontius Pilate. The destructive superstition which was by this means suppressed for the present, soon broke out again, and not only overspread Judea, where it first arose, but reached even to Rome, where all abominations from every quarter are sure to meet and find acceptance. Some who confessed themselves Christians, were first apprehended, and a vast multitude afterwards upon their impeachment, who were condemned, not so much for burning the city, as for being the objects of universal

« PreviousContinue »