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Christianity, however, proceeded to increase in Jerusalern by a progress equally rapid with its first success; for, in the next chapter of our history, we read that: “ believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women" And
bability, multitudes between both, neither perfect Christians, nor yet unbelievers. They had a favourable opinion of the gospel, but worldly considerations made them unwilling to own it. There were many circumstances which inclined them to think that Christianity was á divine revelation, but there were many inconveniences which attended the open profession of it; and they could not find in themselves courage enough to bear them, to disoblige their friends and family, to ruin their fortunes, to lose their reputation, their liberty and their life, for the sake of the new religion. Therefore they were willing to hope, that if they endeavoured to observe the great principles of morality, which Christ had represented as the principal part, the sum and substance of religion ; if they thought honourably of the gospel, if they offered no injury to the Christians, if they did them all the services that they could safely perform, they were willing to hope that God would ac, çept this, and that he would excuse and forgive the reft.” Jortin's Dif. on the Christ. Rel. p. 91, ed. 4.
* Acts v. 14.
this enlargement of the new society appears in the first verse of the succeeding chapter, wherein we are told, that, “ when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected * ;" and, afterwards in the same chapter, it is declared expressly, that “ the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerufalem 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 commences with the ascension of Christ ; and extends, as may be collected from incidental notes of time t, to something more than one year after that event. During which term the preaching of Christianity, so far as our documents inform us, was confined to the single city of Jerusalem. And how did it succeed there? The first assembly which we ineet with of Christ's disciples, and that a few days after his removal from the world, consisted of " one hundred and twenty.” About a week after this “three thousand were added in one day; and the number of Christians, publicly. baptised, and publicly associating together, was very soon increased to “ five thousand.”. “ Multitudes both of men and women continued to be added :”” disciples multiplied greatly,” and
* Aets vi. I.
+ Vide Pearson's Antiq. l. xviii. c. 7. Benson's Hist. of Christ. book i. p. 148.
many of the Jewish priesthood, as well as others, became obedient to the faith ;” and this within a space of less than two years from the commencement of the inftitution.
By reason of a persecution raised against the church at Jerusalem, the converts were driven from that city, and dispersed throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria * Wherever they came, they brought their religion with them; for our historian informs ust, that “ they, that were scattered abroad, went every where preaching the word.”
+ Verse 4.
* Acts viji. I.
The effect of this preaching comes afterwards to be noticed, where the historian is led, in the course of his narrative, to observe, that then (i. e. about three years posterior to this) ” the churches - had rest throughout all Judea, and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified, and, walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” This was the work of the second period, which com, prises about four
Hitherto the preaching of the gospel had been confined to Jews, to Jewish profelytes, and to Samaritans. And I cannot forbear from setting down, in this place, an observation of Mr. Byrant's, which appears. to me to be perfeâly well founded :-" The Jews still remain, but how seldom is it that we can make a single proselyte! There is reason to think, that there were more converted by the apostles in one day, than have
# Benfon, book i. p. 207.
fince been won over in the last thousand years
It was not yet known to the apostles, that they were at liberty to propose the religion to mankind at large. That “ mystery," as St. Paul calls it †, and as it then was, was revealed to Peter by an especial miracle. It appears to have been I about seven years after Christ's ascension, that the gospel was preached to the Gentiles of Cesarea. A year after this, a great multitude of Gentiles were converted at Antioch in Syria. The expresfions employed by the historian are these " A great number believed, and turned to the Lord;"> “ much people was added unto the Lord;” “the apostles Barnabas and Paul taught much people g." Upon Herod's death, which happened in the next year |, it is observed that “ the word of God grew
* Bryant on the Truth of the Christian Religion,
| Benfon, b. ii. p. 236.