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“ by these historians.”—But even allowing all that incredulity can urge--that in the great calamities of war, and famin, and pestilence, the people always grow superftitious, and are ftruck with religious panics ;-that they see nothing then but procligies and portents, which in happier seasons are overlooked ;-that some of these appear to be forined in imitation of the Greek and Ronan historians, as particularly the cow's bringing forth a lamb;--that armies fighting in the clouds, seen in calamitous times in all ages and countries, are nothing more than meteors, such as the aurora borealis; -in thort, allowing that fome of these prodigies were feigned, and others were exaggerated, yet the prediction of them is not the less divine on that account. Whether they were fupernatural, or the fictions only of a disordered imagination, yet they were believed as realities, and had all the effects of realities, and were equally worthy to be made the objects of prophecy. Fearful hghts and great signs from heaven they certainly were, as much as if they had been created on purpose to astonith the earth.
But notwithstanding all these terrible calamities our Saviour exhorts his disciples not to be troubled. The Jews may be under dreadful apprehensions, as they were particularly in the case of Caligula above mentioned; but be not ye troubled, for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet, but the destruction of Jerufalem is not yet. All these are only the beginning of sorrows (ver. 8.) apXn wdiw. Great troubles and calamities are often expressed in fcripture-language metaphorically by the pains of travelling women. All these are only the first pangs and throws, and are nothing to that hard labor which shall follow.
From the calamities of the nation in general, he pafseth to those of the Christians in particular: and indeed the former were in great measure the occasion of the latter; famins, peftilences, earthquakes, and the like calamities being reckoned judgments for the fins of the Christians, and the poor Christians being often maltreated and persecuted on that account, as we learn from
some of the earliest apologists for the Christian religion. Now the calamities which were to befall the Christians were cruel perfecutions, (ver. 9.) Then shall they deliver you up to be afficted, and shall kill you; and ye Mall be hated of all nations, not only of the Jews but likewise of the Gentiles, for my name's fake. St. Mark and St. Luke are rather more particular. St. Mark faith (XIII. 9, 11.) They shall deliver you up to councils; and in the Synagogues ye shall be beaten, and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my fake, for a testimony against them. But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. St. Luke faith (XXI. 12, 13, 14, 15.) But before all these they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogue, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's fakçı And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Setile it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before, what ye shall answer. For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor refft. We need look no farther than the Acts of the Apostles for the completion of these particulars. There are instances enow of the sufferings of some Christians, and of the deaths of others. Some are delivered to councils, as Peter and Jolin. (IV. 5, &c.) Some are brought before rulers and kings, as Paul before Gallio, (XVIII. 12.) Felix, (XXIV.) Feftus and Agrippa. (XXV.) Some have a mouth and wisdom which all their adversaries were not able to gainsay nor refijt, as it is said of Stephen, (VI. 10.) that they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake, and Paul made even Felix to tremble, (XXIV. 25.) and the gospel still prevailed against all opposition and persecution whatever. Some are imprisoned, as Peter and John. (IV. 3.). Some are beaten, as Paul and Silas. (XVI. 23.) Some are put to death, as Stephen. (VII. 59.) and James the brother of John. (XII. 2.) But if we would look farther, we have a more melancholy proof of the truth of this prediction, in
the perfecutions under Nero, in which (besides number less other Christians) fell those (1) two great champions of our faith, St. Peter and St. Paul. And it was nominis prelium, as (2) Tertullian calleth it; it was a war against the very name. Though a man was pofseffed of every human virtue, yet it was crime enough if he was a Chriftian; so true were our Saviour's words, that they fhould be hated of all nations for his name's sake.
But they were not only to be hated of all nations, but were also to be betrayed by apostates and traitors of their own brethren, (ver. 10.) And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and
shall hate one another. By reason of persecution many shall be offended, and apostatize from the faith; as particularly those mentioned by St. Paul in his second Epistle to Timothy, (I. 15.) Phygellus and Hermogenus, whowith many others in Afra turned away from him, and (VI. 10.) Demas who forsook him, having loved this present world. But they thall not only apoftatize from the faith, but also shall tetray one another, and shall hate one another. To illustrate this point we need only cite a sentence out of Tacitus speaking of the perfecution under Nero. At first
, fays (3) he, several were seised who confessed, and then by their discovery a great multitude of others were convicted and barbaroully executed.
False teachers too and false prophets were to infest the church, (ver. 11.) And many false prophets shall rise, and Jhall deceive many. Such particularly was Simon Magus, and his followers the Gnoftics were very numerous. Such also were the Judaizing teachers, false apostles, as they are called by St. Paul, (2 Cor. XI. 13.) deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ
. Such also were Hymeneus and Philetus, of whom the apostle complains (2 Tim. II. 17, 18.) that they affirmed the resurrection to be past already, and overthrew the faith of fome.
(1) Euseb. Ecclef. Hift. Lib. 2. deinde indicio eorum multitudo inCap. 25.
gens convicti sunt.
Et pereuntibus (2) Tertull. Apol. Cap. 2. p. 4. addita ludibria, &c. Tacit., Annala Edit. Rigaltii. Paris, 1675.
Lib. 15. p. 128. Edit, Lipfii. (3) Primò corfepti qui latebantur,
The genuin fruit and effect of these evils was lukewarmness and coolnefs among Christians, (ver. 12.) And. because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall war cold. By reason of these trials and persecutions from without, and these apostacies and false prophets from within, the love of many to Christ and his doctrin, and also their love to one another, fhall wax cold. Some shall openly desert the faith, (as ver. 10.) others shall corrupt it, (as ver. 11.) and others again (as here) Thall grow indifferent to it. And (not to mention other ivstances) who can hear St. Paul complaining at Rome (2 Tim. IV. 16.) that at his first answer no man stood with him, but all men forsook him; who can hear the divine author of the Epistle to the Hebrews exhorting them (X. 25.) not to forsake the assembling of themselves together, as the manner of fome is; and not conclude the event to have fufficiently justified our Saviour's prediction 2
But he that shall endure unto the end; (ver. 13.) but he vho fhall not be terrified by these trials and perfecutions; he who thall neither apoftatize from the faith himself, nor be feduced by others; he who fhall not be athamed to profess his faith in Chrift, and his love to the brethren; the same shall be faved, saved both here and hereafter. There shall not an hair of your head perish, as it is in St. Luke: (XXI. 18.) and indeed it is very remarkable, and was certainly a most signal act of providence, that none of the Christians perished in the destruction of Jerufalem. So true and prophetic also was that affertion of St. Peter upon this fame occasion, (2 Pet. II. 9.) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptu. tions.
But notwithstanding the perfecutions and calamities of the Chriftians, there was to be an universal publication of the Gofpel before the destruction of Jerufalem, (ver. 14.) And this gospel of the kingdom (this gofpel of the kingdom of God) Jhali be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come; and then shall the destruction of Jerufalem and the end of the Jewish polity come to pass; when all nations Shall be or may be convinced of the crying fin of the Jews in crucifying the Lord of glory, and of the justice of God's judgments upon them for it. The Acts of the Apostles contain only a small part of the history of a small part of the Apostles; and yet even in that hiftory we see, the gospel was widely diffeminated, and had taken root in the most considerable parts of the Roman empire. As early as in the reign of Nero, (4) the Christians were grown fo numerous at Rome, as to raise the jealousy of the government, and the first general perfecution was commenced against them under pretence of their having set fire to the city, of which the emperor himself was really guilty, but willing to transfer the blame and odiuin upon the poor innocent Chriftians. Clement, who was a contemporary and fellow-laborer with St. Paul, (5) says of him in particular, that he was a preacher both in the east and in the west, that he taught the whole world righteousness, and travelled as far as to the utmost borders of the west: and if such were the labors of one apostle, though the chiefest of the apostles, what were the united labors of them all? It appears indeed from the writers of the history of the church, that before the destruction of Jerufalem the gospel was not only preached in the lefler Asia, and. Greece, and Italy, the great theatres of action then in the world; but was likewise propagated as far northward as Scythia, as far fouthward as Ethiopia, as far eastward as Parthia and India, as far westward as Spain and Britain. Our ancestors of this iland seem to have lain as remote from the scene of our Saviour's actions as almost any nation, and were a (6) rough in hospitable people, as unlikely to receive fo civilized an institution as any people whatever. But yet there is (7) fome probability, that the gospel was preached here by St. Simon the apostle; there is much greater probability, that it was preached here by St. Paul; and there is absolute certainty that Christianity was planted in this country in the days of
(4) Tacit. Annal. Lib. 15. veniens. Clem, Epift. ad Corinth. I.
(s) κηρυξ γενομενος εν τη τη αναλολη Cap. 5. και εν τη δυσει, δικαιοσυνης διδαξας (6) Britannos hofpitibus feros. όλον τον κοσμον, και επι το τερμα της Hor. Οd. III. IV. 33. durews Bwi. Præco factus in oriente (7) See Stillingfileet's Origines Briac occidente.-totum mundum docens tannicæ. Chap. 1. Collier's Ecclef. juftitiam, et ad occidentis terminum Hift. Book 3. Userii Britan, Ecclef.
Antiquitates. Cap. 1, kg