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adds, “ They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain : for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Daniel, in explaining Nebuchadnezzar's dream, after describing the Babylonian, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman empires, subjoins, “In the days of these kings," namely, of the Roman emperors,
66 shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not,” like the former, “be left to other people ; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” Again, he says, “ I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man came to the Ancient of Days, and there was given to him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."
In conformity to these predictions concerning the kingdom of the Messiah, our Saviour also declares the extensive spread of his religion. “ The gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness to all nations.” Accordingly, when he gave his apostles their commission, he said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” The Jewish economy was like a light whose feeble rays are confined to one house: but Christianity resembles the glorious orb of day distributing his bright beams to the whole of the human family. Though it was certain, from the sublimity of the doctrines of the gospel, the spirituality of its precepts, its tendency to humble the pride of man, its contrariety to the idolatry and superstition which had for so many ages existed in the world, that the apostles would meet with much opposition in the faithful and
zealous discharge of their ministerial duties ; yet our Saviour, in his address to Peter, concerning his excellent confession, says, “ Upon this Rock will I build my church ; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Gamaliel, speaking to his fellow senators, reasoned wisely and conclusively, “ If this counsel, or this work, be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it.”
On the first promulgation of Christianity at Jerusalem, the capital of Judea, its progress was rapid and considerable. Our Saviour, at the beginning of his public ministry, chose twelve persons to attend him, and then seventy disciples, whom he sent by two and 'two before his face into every place whither he himself would go. The ministry of the seventy disciples was successful, for he says, “I beheld Satan as lightening fall from heaven;" and they “ rejoiced, that the devils were subject unto them, through his name." At the ascension of our Saviour, probably the most part of the members of his church were present, for “ he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once.” On the day of Pentecost, such was the power of divine grace attending the ministry of the word, that “there were added about three thousand souls.” Soon after, such was the efficacy of the gospel, that the sacred historian uses this larguage, “ Many of them who heard the word, believed ; and the number of the men,” exclusive of the women,
was about five thousand.” Again, he says,
66 Believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” Nay, what is still more remarkable, that “ a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Thus the promise of our Saviour to his apostles was accomplished, “ I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist."
On the death of Stephen, the proto-martyr, many of the members of the Christian church at Jerusalem, were "scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” Soon after, Saul of Tarsus, afterwards called Paul, who had been an active agent in this persecution, became a sound convert to the faith of Christ, and a zealous apostle in propagating the Christian religion among the Gentiles; to whom our Saviour sent him, “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” His zealous exertions in the cause of Christianity were attended with such happy results, that from the testimony of his enemies it is stated, “ Ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost through all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned awaymuch people, saying, that they be no gods which are made with hands.” And such were the effects produced by the ministry of all the apostles and their associates, in various countries, that, as Dr. Paley observes, before the end of thirty years from the death, resurrection, and ascension of our Saviour, the Christian religion had spread itself through Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, almost all the numerous districts of the Lesser Asia, through Greece, and the islands of the Ægean sea, the sea-coast of Africa, and had extended itself to Rome, and into Italy. At Antioch in Syria, at Joppa, Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, Berea, Iconium, Derbe, Antioch in Pisidia, at Ludda, Saron, the number of converts is intimated by the expressions, “a great number great multitudes—much people.” Converts are tioned, without any designation of their number, at Tyre, Cesarea, Troas, Athens, Philippi, Lystra, and Damascus.
Thus the apostles, through the divine blessing, though destitute of the advantages of birth, education, fortune
without secular terrors to affright, pecuniary rewards to bribe, or dazzling eloquence to enchant-armed with nothing but faith, truth, goodness-yet encountered the power of princes, the bigotry of priests, the learning of philosophers, the rage of the populace, the prejudices of alland were honoured with amazing success! All the literary acquirements and sarcasm of the Greeks and Romans were employed to ridicule the gospel, and prevent its progress; and the potentates of the earth drew the sword against it, armed their legions for effecting its overthrow, but without accomplishing their malicious designs; which evidently proves an extraordinary interposition of God. Had the infidel wits of the present age seen the apostles, when entering on their arduous and unexampled labours, they would sneeringly have derided the attempt, saying, as Sanballat did long before, “ What will these feeble Jews do ?” But had they seen the astonishing event, surely they must have owned, with the Egyptian magi, in a less illustrious miracle, “ This is the finger of God!” a
Tacitus, in giving a relation of a great fire that happened at Rome, in the tenth year of Nero, which coincides with the thirtieth after Christ's ascension, speaking of the Christians, says, “ They had their denomination from Christus, who, in the reign of Tiberius, was put to death as a criminal, by the procurator Pontius Pilate. This pernicious superstition, though checked for a while, broke out again, and spread not only over Judea, but reached the city also. At first there were but few apprehended, who confessed themselves of that sect; afterwards a vast multitude was discovered of them.”
a The Author's Progress of Christianity, &c. p. 275.
Pliny, the younger, in a letter written to the emperor Trajan concerning the Christians, not quite eighty years after Christ's ascension, says to him, “ Suspending all judicial proceedings, I have recourse to you for advice; for it has appeared to me a matter highly deserving consideration, especially on account of the great number of persons who are in danger of suffering: for many of all ages, and of every rank, of both sexes likewise, are accused, and will be accused. Nor has the contagion of this superstition seized cities only, but the lesser towns also, and the open country.”
Justin, surnamed the Martyr, who embraced Christianity about the year A. D. 132, in his dialogue with Trypho, a noted Jew, (which he wrote about thirty years after Pliny, and 106 after the ascension,) has these remarkable words : “ There is no nation, whether of Barbarians, or Greeks, or any others, by what names soever they are called, whether they live in waggons, or without houses, or in tents, among whom prayers are not made, and thanksgiving offered up, to the Father and Creator of all, through the name of the crucified Jesus.” þ
Irenæus, who was made Bishop of Lyons in the year of our Lord 179, states, “ This preaching of the gospel, and this faith, the church scattered up and down the whole world maintains, as inhabiting one house, and believes it with one heart and soul, teaches and preaches it as with one mouth; for though there be different languages in the world, yet the force of tradition, or of that doctrine that has been delivered to the church, is but one and the same.
a C. Plin. Trajano. Imp. lib. x. ep. 97.