« ElőzőTovább »
light in which they are to be regarded, and the use that is to be made of them by Christians of succeeding times. They are not to be made the foundation of any doctrine as essential to Christianity, which is not plainly taught in the Gospels and in the Acts. They are to be read as a part of the history of the first age of the church, a record of the noble exertions and lofty sentiments of the most zealous and active of the Apostles. They strengthen our faith, for they carry with them the conviction that the writer was a sincere and holy man, a competent witness of all that he relates, too penetrating and judicious to be himself deceived, and too honest to lead others astray. They are invaluable for conveying to the mind a full impression of the reality of the main facts of the Gospel history, interwoven as they are with names and dates, and personal incidents, altogether analogous to the transactions of every day life. With much that is obscure, and not a little which seems to us rhapsodical, we see in them an earnest, sincere, religious spirit, generous sentiments, tender affections, entire disinterestedness, the most delicate moral feeling, true courtesy, manly courage, and a fortitude that nothing could overcome. When we follow him in his long and dangerous journeys, his cruel persecutions, his tedious imprisonments, and consider how many churches he founded, how many souls he prepared for heaven, we heartily. respond to his triumphant
testimony when about to be offered up: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me in that day.”
FIRST CONTROVERSY IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
Acts 15: 1, 2.-And certain men, which came down from Jerusalem taught the brethren and said: Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the Apostles and elders about this question.
THE religion of Christ encountered great difficulties at its first promulgation, and had much to overcome before it became thoroughly established in the world. Its first difficulty was, that no one except its founder, thoroughly comprehended it. Its spirituality was altogether in advance of the age. It contemplated what then had never been known or imagined, the separation of church and state. And one of the causes of the rejection of Jesus by the Jews, was his undertaking to make this separation. All the religions of antiquity were connected, more or less, with the civil government. Moses had united in his own person the functions of prophet, military leader,
and civil magistrate. That the Messiah should decline all secular functions, and take upon himself only a spiritual power, was, to his nation, altogether incomprehensible. That this was the surest way to universal empire, they had not the least idea. That Jesus of Nazareth, whom they saw only as an humble, unassuming teacher of religion, was laying the foundations of wide and enduring dominion, more deeply and securely than he could have done in any other way, was a truth which they had neither the intellectual nor the spiritual sagacity to discern. That millions of hearts would bow with the profoundest veneration before his moral perfection, that millions of minds, from the simplest to the most exalted, would acknowledge their allegiance to his superhuman wisdom, that he would reign by the divine power of eternal truth for ages and ages, was a conception too lofty for the minds of that worldly and corrupted people. But such was no less the fact. The very destitution of the kingdom of heaven of all they expected, an incorporation with the secular power, and the location of its seat within the fortifications of some strong city, was the reason of its perpetuity and universality. Had it been any thing local, identified with the fate of any city, throne, or nation, conquest or revolution might have swept it from the face of the earth. But having its seat in the soul, and its author being exalted to the spiritual
world, to be the same yesterday, to-day, and forever, it was raised above all earthly vicissitude. Kingdoms might come to nought, empires might be dissolved, languages might die, races might become extinct, heaven and earth might pass away, but the words of Christ, which are his spiritual sceptre, could not pass away. Wherever they sound in the ears of mortals, they come with the authority of God, and at this day, command the same homage which they did when first uttered eighteen centuries ago, and under the burning line or the frozen pole, they assert the same supremacy over the soul of man.
The second difficulty which Christianity encountered, was its connexion with Judaism. It was, in fact, a schism from the Jewish church, and it suffered alike from its enmity and its friendship. The same worldly-mindedness and bigotry which led the Jews to reject Jesus as their Messiah, led them to persecute his followers. The feelings which Saul of Tarsus acknowledged himself to have had towards the Christians, that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus, and that he was exceedingly mad against them, were shared, doubtless, by the mass of his countrymen, and hence, those bitter and furious persecutions which the Christians immediately encountered in Judea, by which they were driven into concealment, or else banished from the country.