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OF THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
1. This book forms the last of the historical books 6. That Luke did not design to write a general of the New Testament, and is generally placed as history of the Christian church during the first a connecting link between the gospels and the thirty years after Christ's ascension, is sufficiently epistles; though in several MSS. and Versions, it evident from the omissions in his work. Hence stands at the end of Paul's epistles.
he passes by all the transactions in the church of 2. This interesting and important record of the Jerusalem, after the conversion of Paul, though early history of the Christian church has had the apostles continued for some time in Palestine. several titles. CEcumenius aptly termed it, “The He also omits to notice the propagation of ChristiGospel of the Holy Spirit;" and Chrysostom, as anity in Egypt, or in the countries bordering on happily, “The Book, the Demonstration of the the Euphrates and the Tigris, Paul's journey into Resurrection.” These titles are much more de- Arabia, the state of Christianity in Babylon (1 scriptive of its contents, than the one now gener- Pet. v. 13); the foundation of the church at ally given to it.
Rome, which had already received an epistle 3. That the evangelist Luke was the author of (from Paul, several of Paul's voyages,
many this book, is affirmed by the voice of antiquity, and other matters of which he could not possibly be is also demonstrated from its introduction, in which ignorant, as may be seen in Lardner.t Upon simiit is dedicated to the same person for whose im- lar grounds we may conclude that this book was mediate instruction his gospel had been written, not designed to be a full history of the ministry and and which is here expressly referred to.
sufferings of all the apostles, in the propagation of 4. The long attendance of Luke on Paul, as Christianity, nor even to give a minute relation of well as the circumstance of his having been an the laborious exertions of the apostle Paul. To eye-witness of many of the occurrences which he the book of the Acts may be applied the words records, renders him a most respectable and cre- in which John has spoken of his gospel, “and dible historian. His medical knowledge enabled many other extraordinary occurrences indeed there him to form a proper judgment of the miraculous were, which are not written in this book.” Here, cures which were performed by Paul, and also to therefore, as in the gospels, a selection of facts, give an accurate and authentic detail of them. not regularly disposed in chronological order, was But he himself does not appear to have possessed designed to serve for the evidence or illustration the power of healing by supernatural means; at of certain important religious truths. least, we have no instances of it on record : and 7. The two great points to which this selection when the father of Publius and other sick persons of facts seems subservient are, that the Christian were suddenly cured, they were restored to health, religion is of divine origin, and that it was innot by Luke, but by the prayers of Paul.* This, tended for the benefit, not of the Jewish nation as Dr. Clarke remarks, is another proof of the alone, but of every nation on earth. As pecuwisdom of God: had the physician been em- liarly striking examples of this, reference may be ployed to work miracles of healing, the excellence made to the passages where are severally related of the power would have been attributed to the the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles at skill of man, and not to the power of his Maker. the day of Pentecost, the vision of Peter, and the
5. Although the time at which this book was conversion of Paul (chap. ii. 1–36, x. 9–44, is. written is not expressly defined, it may with some 1-20), in which, while the miracles are fitted to certainty be inferred from its contents. The last prove the truths of the religion, in the cause of which chapter brings down the history to the second they took place, the end or purpose of the miracles year of Paul's imprisonment, and therefore could proclaims or prepares for its general propagation. not have been written before the year 63; and as On this supposition, there is a sufficient reason it relates no further particulars relative to this why the names of some of the apostles never apostle, whose history it chiefly regards in its latter occur throughout the book, and why so little is part, the inference that it was written at this time said of Peter and John; as it did not matter that is perfectly reasonable.
the labours of this or of that apostle should be pre
* Michaëlis, vol. iii., pt. 1, p. 327.
+ Supplement, vol. i., ch, viii., sect. 9.
served, or that even a distinct history of the first by the narrative cannot be so divided into distinct propagation of Christianity should be composed. periods, within one or other of which each of the On any other supposition it would be difficult to facts may with certainty be placed. explain why the work has not materials from 10. The following division, which has been which we might have learnt what befell all the adopted by Bishop Percy, is, perhaps, the most apostles in the execution of the trust committed just and useful. to them, and have traced more minutely the pro- Part I. The account of the first Pentecost after gressive diffusion of the gospel ; both of which Christ's death, and of the events preceding it, conobjects are deeply interesting to Christians, and tained in chap. i., ii. one of which we are by the title, early but per- II. The acts at Jerusalem, and throughout haps injudiciously prefixed to the book, almost Judea and Samaria, among the Christians of the led to expect.*
circumcision, chap. ii.-ix., xii. 8. In addition to the external evidences of the III. The acts in Cæsarea, and the receiving of authenticity of this book, derived from the early the Gentiles, chap. x., xi. and unbroken tradition of the Christian church, IV. The first circuit of Barnabas and Paul the most indubitable evidences of its truth may among the Gentiles, chap. xiii., xiv. be deduced from its style and composition. The V. The embassy from Antioch and the first language and manner of every speaker whose ad-council at Jerusalem, wherein the Jews and Gendresses it purports to give, are strikingly charac- tiles were admitted to an equality, chap. xv. teristic; and the same speaker is found to adapt VI. The second circuit of Paul, chap. xvi.—xix. his manner to the character of the audience he VII. Paul's first journey to Rome, chap. xix. happens to address. The speeches of Stephen, 21—xxviii. Peter, Cornelius, James, Tertullus, and Paul, are 11. In the book of the Acts we see how the all different, and such as might naturally be ex- church of Christ was formed and settled. The pected from the characters in question, and the apostles simply proclaim the truth of God relative circumstances by which they were surrounded at to the passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of the time. The historical details, also, and espe- Christ, and God accompanies their testimony with cially the incidental circumstances mentioned by the demonstration of his Spirit What the Luke, so exactly correspond, and that evidently consequence? Thousands acknowledge the truth, without any design on the part of the writer, with embrace Christianity, and openly profess it at the the accounts furnished in Paul's epistles, and in imminent risk of their lives. The change is not ancient historians, as to afford the most incontro a change of merely one religious sentiment or vertible evidences of its truth, and the strongest mode of worship for another; but a change of demonstration of the Christian religion. I
tempers, passions, prospects, and moral conduct. 9. Although Luke has not annexed any dates to All before was earthly, or animal, or devilish, or the transactions which he records, nor followed | all these together ; but now all is holy, spiritual, uninterruptedly the thread of the history, we may and divine; the heavenly influence becomes experceive more regularity and continuity in this tended, and nations are born unto God. And work than in any of the gospels. Indeed, in both how was all this brought about? Not by might his works, Luke has shown most apparently the nor power, nor by the sword, nor by secular audesign of defining within what period of the his-thority, nor through worldly motives and prostory of the world the gospel history is to be placed; pects ; not by pious frauds and cunning craftinens; for, by comparing some of his facts with the co- not by the force of persuasive eloquence; in a incident facts in Roman history, he has enabled us word, by nothing but the sole influence of truth with great accuracy to ascertain when the history itself, attested to the heart by the power of the in the New Testament begins and terminates. Holy Spirit. I From these data Michaëlis has attempted to settle 12. The style of Luke, in this book, is prothe chronology of this book, dividing the history nounced by Michaëlis to be much purer than that into five epochs.|| It will be evident, however, of most other books of the New Testament, espefrom an inspection of his scheme, and a careful cially in the speeches delivered by Paul at Athens, perusal of the book itself, that the time occupied and before the Roman governors, which contain pas
sages superior to any thing even in the Epistle to
the Hebrews, though the language of this epistle . Cook's Inquiry, p. 219., See also Benson's Hist. of the is preferable in other respects to that of any other ist planting of Christianity, vol. i., p. 22, &c.
+ See Michaelis, vol. iii., pt. 1, p. 333, &c.
Key to the New Testament, p. 63.
Dr. A. Clarke Preface to the Acts of the Apostles,
book in the New Testament. But the Acts of absence of labour and pomp, of every art to magnify the Apostles are by no means free from Hebra- and exalt, as characterizes the gospels; there is a isms; and even in the purest parts, which are the simplicity of design and diction which forcibly bespecches of Paul, we still find the language of a speaks the sincerity and fidelity of the writer, and native Jew.* There is here the same complete makes the most powerful impression on the mind
and heart. * Michaëlis' Introduction, vol. iž., pt. 1, p. 332.
OF THE EPISTLES OF PAUL.
THE CONVERSION AND CHARACTER OF PAUL.
2. To enter fully into the life of the great apostle of the Gentiles, would greatly exceed our limits. A
very few remarks on his character and writings 1. WHOEVER will be at the trouble of collecting must suffice. The conversion of Paul has been together the scattered materials of the life and justly regarded as affording a most convincing character of Paul, now dispersed up and down in proof of the truth of the Christian religion. Lord the Acts of the Apostles, and in his own divinely Lyttleton considered this circumstance of itself inspired epistles, and then of steadily following a demonstration sufficient to prove Christianity to out the thread of his history and labours, will rise be a divine revelation; and, indeed, when we confrom the task with a conviction that he was the sider the character of Saul, the manner in which he most able, as he was also the most extraordinary, was brought to a knowledge of the truth, the minister of the New Testament, raised up by the impression made on his own mind and heart by great Head of the Church. A most determined the vision he had on his way to Damascus, and and implacable enemy to the cross of Christ, the the effect produced on all his subsequent life, we ebullitions of whose wrath swept away in one cannot reasonably resist this conclusion. Saul of common destruction “men and women”- bigoted Tarsus was not a man of a light, fickle, and unand unrelenting persecutor, “breathing out threat-cultivated mind. His natural powers were vast; his enings and slaughter against the disciples of the character was most decided ; and his education, as Lord, and making havoc of the church,” he was we learn from his historian and from his writings, brought over from the ranks of the enemy, and was at once both liberal and profound. He was became, not only an able preacher of the faith he born and brought up in a city enjoying every prihad once destroyed, but its most steady and suc-vilege of which Rome itself could boast, and cessful defender. The conversion of Paul to the which was a successful rival both of Rome and faith of Christ was not the occasion of destroying Athens in arts and science. Though a Jew, it is any of those striking features in his character evident that his education was not confined to which distinguished him while engaged in the matters that concerned his own people and work of destruction. It only brought them under country alone. He had read the best Greek the influence of principles which rendered them writers, as his style, allusions, and quotations, instruments of the most extensive and lasting sufficiently prove; and in matters which concern good. Possessing a determination of purpose his own religion, he was instructed by Gamaliel, which no obstacles could thwart-a burning one of the most celebrated doctors the synagogue charity which no opposition could quench—and had ever produced. He was evidently master of an ardent zeal which no suffering could subdue, the three great languages which were spoken he united these moral qualities to an intellect of among the only people who deserved the name no ordinary kind, improved by accessions of of nations, the Hebrew, and its prevailing dialect, almost every species of learning which was then the Chaldæo-Syriac, the Greek, and the Latin ;cultivated, and consecrating the whole to the languages, that, notwithstanding all the cultivaundivided service of his Lord, he became the tion through which the earth has passed, maintain most able espositor and the most successful de- their rank over all the languages of the universe. fender of the Christian faith, in that or in any Was it likely that such a man, possessing such a other age of the church.
mind, cultivated to such an extent, could have been imposed upon or deceived? The circumstances of step he took was a progressive advance in aldihis conversion forbid the supposition; they do tional sufferings, and that the issue of his journey more, they render it impossible. One considera- must be a violent death! The whole history of tion alone will prove that imposture was impos- Paul proves him to have been one of the greatest sible: Saul had no communication with Chris- of men; and his conduct after he became a Christians; the men that accompanied him to Damascus tian, had it not sprung from a divine motive, of were of his own mind, virulent, determined the truth of which he had the fullest conviction, enemies to the very name of Christ; and his con- would have shown him to have been one of the version took place in the open day, on the open reakest of men. The conclusion, therefore, is selfroud, in company only with such men as the evident, that in Paul's call there could be no impersecuting high-priest and Sanhedrin thought posture ; that in his own mind there could be no proper to be employed in the extermination of deception; that his conversion was from heaven; Christianity. In such circumstances, and in such and that the religion he professed and taught was company, no cheat could be practised. But was the infallible and eternal truth of Jehovah. In not he the deceiver? The supposition is absurd this full conviction he counted not his life dear and monstrous, for this simple reason, that there unto him, but finished his rugged race with joy, was no motive that could prompt him to feign cheerfully giving up his life for the testimony of what he was not, and no end that could be Jesus; and thus his luminous sun set in blood, to answered by assuming the profession of Christi- rise again in glory. The conversion of Paul is the anity. Christianity had in it such principles as triumph of Christianity; his writings, the fullest must excite the hatred of Greece, Rome, and exhibition and defence of its doctrines ; and his Judea. It exposed the folly and absurdity of life and death, a glorious illustration of its prinGrecian and Roman superstition and idolatry, and ciples. Armed with the history of Paul's conasserted itself to be the completion, ened, and per- version and life, the feeblest believer needs not fection of the whole Mosaic code. It was there- fear the most powerful infidel. The ninth chapter fore hated by all those nations, and its followers of the Acts of the Apostles will ever remain an despised, detested, and persecuted. From the impregnable fortress to defend Christianity, and profession of such a religion, so circumstanced, defeat its enemies.* muld any man, who possessed even the most 3. Dr. Harwood thus characterizes Paul :-“ All moderate share of common sense, expect secular the writings of St. Paul speak him a man of a emolument or advantage? No! Had not this most exalted genius, and the strongest abilities. apostle of the Gentiles, therefore, the fullest con- His composition is peculiarly nervous and aniriction of the truth of Christianity, the fullest mated. He possessed a fervid conception, a proof of its heavenly influence on his own soul, glowing but chastised fancy, a quick apprehenand the brightest prospect of the reality and sion, and a most immensely ample and liberal blessedness of the heavenly world, he could not heart. Inheriting from nature distinguished have taken one step in the path which the doc- powers, he carried the culture and improvement of trine of Christ pointed out. Add to this, that he them to the most exalted height to which human lived long after his conversion, saw Christianity learning could push them: an excellent scholar, and its intluence in every point of view, and tried an acute reasoner, a great orator, a most instructive it in all circumstances. What was the result? and spirited writer. Longinus classes the apostle The deepest conviction of its truth, so that he among the most celebrated orators of Greece.t counted all things dross and dung in comparison This speeches in the Acts of the Apostles are of the excellency of its knowledge. Had he continued a Jew, he would have infallibly risen to the first dignities and honours of his nation ; but * Dr. A. Clarke's Notes on Acts ix.; Littleton on the Conbe willingly forfeited all his secular privileges, and version of St. Paul; Paul's life in vol
. iv. of Macknight's Translawell-grounded expectations of secular honour and tion of the Epistles ; and Mrs. More's Essay. Mr. Horne, also,
has compiled a good account of the apostle's life and labours, emolument, and espoused a cause, from which he Introduction, vol. iv., p. 308, &c. could not only have no expectation of worldly
+ Longinus, p. 260, Pearce, 8vo. advantage, but which most evidently and necessarily exposed him to all sorts of privations, suf- Paul, preserved in the Acts, that he must have had a purer
+ Michaelis remarks, that it is evident, from the speeches of ferings, hardships, dangers, and even death itself. language at his corumand than he generally adopted in his These were not only the unavoidable conse-writings. And the reason for which the apostle, as he conquences of the cause he espoused, but he had ceives, did not compose in better Greek, was to avoid giving them fully in his apprehension, and constantly in already consecrated to the purposes of religion.--Introduction,
offence to the Jews, by deviating from a language that was his eye. He predicted them, and knew that every 1 vol. i., p. 155.
worthy the Roman senate. They breathe a most
SECTION II. generous fire and fervour, are animated with a
PRELIMINARY REMARKS ON THE EPISTLES OF PAUL. divine spirit of liberty and truth, abound with instances of as fine address as any of the most
1. The epistles of Paul form no inconsiderable celebrated orations of Demosthenes or Cicero can part of the New Testament, either in bulk or in boast ; and his answers, when at the bar, to the importance. The number of his apostolic letters questions proposed to him by the court, have a amounts to fourteen, and in these every doctrine politeness and a greatness, which nothing in an of the Christian system is discussed, amplified, tiquity hardly ever equalled. His writings show illustrated, and defended, with the utmost success. him eminently acquainted with Greek learning The importance of these writings will be immeand Hebrew literature. He greatly excelled in diately manifest when it is considered that they the profound and accurate knowledge of the Old are commentaries on the gospels. The apostle has Testament, which he is perpetually citing and ex- not, as a recent writer has disingenuously insiplaining with great skill and judgment, and per- nuated, introduced and taught doctrines not pretinently accommodating to the subject he is, viously revealed by our Saviour, and preserved in discussing. Born at Tarsus, the most illustrious the gospels; but, watching over the infant seat of the Muses in those days, initiated in that churches which had been established, and obcity into the learning and philosophy of the serving the rise and spread of error and abuse, Greeks, conversing in early life* with their most he was induced, under the influence of divine elegant and celebrated writers, whom we find inspiration, to exhibit in a variety of lights, and him quoting, and afterwards finishing his course to illustrate by a number of methods, the several of education at the feet of Gamaliel, the learned parts of that important system of doctrines which Jewish rabbi, he came forth into public and active had already been laid down by his Lord and life, with a mind stored with the most ample and Master, for the purpose of preserving in the purity various treasures of science and knowledge that of the faith those who had made a profession of can adorn and dignify the human soul. A negli- it, and of checking and putting down those misgent greatness, if I may so express it, appears in taken or malignant men who exerted themselves his writings. Full of the dignity of his subject, in sullying the purity of the Christian scheme. a torrent of sacred eloquence bursts forth, and “The post, then, which the epistles occupy in the bears down every thing before it with irresistible sacred depository of revelation, is not that of comrapidity. He stays not to arrange and harmonize munications of new doctrine. They fill their his words and his periods, but rushes on as his station as additional records, as inspired corrobovast ideas transport him, borne away with the rations, as argumentative concentrations, as insublimity of his theme, and, like Pindar, when structive expositions, of truths already revealed, seized with poetic inspiration, with strong pinions of commandments already promulgated. In some soars above the clouds, and far, far below, at an few instances a new circumstance, collateral to an immense distance, leaves all mortal things. Hence established doctrine, is added; as when Paul, in his frequent and prolix digressions, though at the applying to the consolation of the Thessalonians same time his comprehensive mind never loses the future resurrection of their departed friends, sight of his subject, but he returns from these subjoins the intelligence that the dead in Christ excursions, resumes and pursues it with an ardour shall rise first, to meet the Lord in the air, before and strength of reasoning that astonishes and con- the generation alive at the coming of our Saviour vinces. He introduces any subject which he is shall exchange mortal life for immortality.
In afraid will prejudice and disgust his countrymen, the explication of moral precepts, the epistles frethe Jews, with a humility and modesty that quently enter into large and highly beneficial secures your attention, and with an insinuating details. And as one of their principal objects at form of address to which you can deny nothing. the time of their publication was to settle controUpon occasion, also, we find him employing the versial dissensions, to refute heresies, and to exmost keen and cutting raillery in satirizing the pose perversions of scriptural truth, they in confaults and foibles of those to whom he wrote.”+
sequence abound in discussions illustrating the nature and the scope of sound doctrine ; and guarding it against the false and mischievous in
terpretations of the ignorant, of the subtle, and of * This is disputed by Dr. Macknight, Transl. of the Epist.,
the unholy.” # vol. iv., p. 432.
+ Harwood's Introduction, vol. i., p. 198, &c. See also Mackuigbt's 'Translation of the Epistles, Prel. Essay, III.
+ Townsend's Arrang. New Test. vol. ii. p. 214.