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THE DOCTRINES OF THE DIVINITY, THE MIRACULOUS BIRTH AND THE ATONEMENT OF CHRIST REFUTED FROM THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
As Luke wrote his Gospel in Egypt, he must have written there also his history of the Acts of the Apostles, both being addressed to the same man. This circumstance leads us to conclude, that he had the same end in publishing this im portant narrative, which had induced him to publish his Gospel. This was not to give a general and complete history of the preaching of the apostles, but to select such facts as were best calculated to establish the truth of Christianity, and to refute those false tenets by which certain impostors, who pretended to embrace the gospel, sought to undermine it.
The anti-christian system supposes Jesus to have been made known at his birth; the angel, the star, and the magi, having then proclaimed him as the future Messiah. To these or similar falsehoods, Luke opposes the declaration of the twelve apostles, whom he represents as saying, that their testimony extended back only to the
baptism of John, and no farther. "Wherefore of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained with us to be a witness of his resurrection," Acts i. 21, 22.
The following is a part of the first address, which Peter made to the Jews after the descent of the Spirit had enlightened the views, and confirmed the faith of the apostles. "Ye men of Israel hear these words, Jesus of Nazareth, a man accredited of God among you by miracles and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know. Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands ye have crucified and slain; whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible he should be holden of it.This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses. Therefore, being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the holy Spirit, he hath, according to his promise, poured it on us, and is that effect which ye now hear and see. For David hath not ascended into the heavens; but he himself saith, Jehovah said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies my footstool. Wherefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that very Jesus whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ," Acts ii. 22, 86,
In this passage we hear the apostle preaching for the first time: we might therefore expect
him to be very particular in stating the leading points which he wished the Jews and Gentiles to embrace, when embracing the gospel: and these are, that he whom the rulers had crucified, was Jesus of Nazareth, and not Jesus of Bethlehem; that he was a man accredited of God; that the miracles he wrought, were wrought by the pow er of Jehovah, and not by virtue of his own power as a superior being; that he was not taken by surprise, when delivered for crucifixion, but was ordained thus to suffer by the foreknowledge of God; that he descended from David, his resurrection being foretold by that patriarch; that the holy Spirit which he had promised on the express condition of his rising from the dead, was now given; proving thereby the truth of that event, and finally, that the very Jesus whom they had crucified was the Christ. This is the conclusion which the enemies of the gospel resisted; but as they could not deny the miracles of Christ, his reappearance after death, and the diffusion of the holy spirit, which enabled the apostles to do similar works in his name, they maintained that the Christ was a God, existing indeed in the man Jesus, but not the same with him. This artful assumption Peter opposes, and in order to estab lish the simple humanity of Christ as the very foundation of the Gospel, he uses the strongest words which the Greek language could supply. "Wherefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made both Christ and Lord, that very Jesus whom you have crucified." *
* The apostle has guarded, his nicaniug with no less than four definitives, Κύριον και χριςόν αυτόν ο θεος εποίησεν, τούτον τον Ιησουν, ὃν ὑμεῖς εξαύρωσατε, ver. 36,
Peter presently bore before the rulers the same consistent and undaunted testimony, which he just delivered to the people. “Then Peter, filled with the holy Spirit, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders, if we be examined this day concerning the good deed done to the infirm man, by what means he hath been made whole, be it made known to you all, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man standeth here before you all restor ed. This is the stone despised by you builders, which is become the head of the corner; nor is there salvation by any other for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we can be saved," Acts iv. 5.
Here the apostle tells the rulers that the miracle performed on the impotent man, was done by virtue of Jesus of Nazareth; and lest they should conclude that he possessed such power underived from God, and inherent in himself, he ascribes his resurrection and exaltation to the energy of the Almighty. It is curious to observe, how the language is crowded with definitives." In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified: whom God raised, by this doth the man stand here before you restored; this is the stone, which though despised by you builders, is become the head of the corner.' The meaning of the verse which immediately follows these last words is to this effect.. "Despicable as this Jesus appears in your views, he is the means of healing the malady of this man, and must be the means of healing the more grievous maladies under which you and all other men
labour, if you wish to be saved from moral death; and vain will be your attempt to substitute any other medium of salvation, either by affecting to consider the baptist as the Messiah, or by saying, that the Christ is a superior being which for awhile resided in the man Jesus."
The writers of antiquity concur in asserting, that Simon, the magician, who had been a disciple of John the Baptist, was among those antichristian teachers who introduced the Gnostic system; and the conspicuous part he took in opposition to the gospel, led the writer of the Acts to give a brief account of his conduct and character, chap. viii. This man having long deluded the people of Samaria by his magical artifices, pretended to be the great power of God, a title which he appears to have taken in opposition to our Lord, who was called the word of God. The impostor had been employed in disseminating his principles in Samaria some time before Christianity was preached there by Philip; and was one of those thieves and robbers, whom Jesus (John x. 8), represents as having come before him.
When Philip first taught the Christian doctrine in Samaria, it is natural to be expected that he should have insisted on those fundamental principles which were denied by Simon and his followers, and this we shall find to be the case. "But when they believed the gospel of Philip concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women. And Simon himself believed also; and after his baptism observing Philip,. Was astonished at the signs and great miracles which he performed," Acts vii. 12. Philip proclaimed