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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER I The foundation of the Church among the Jews

A Key To The Knowledge Of Church History by John Henry Blunt

CHAPTER I The foundation of the Church among the Jews

A.D.33-A.D.38

Before entering upon an account of the Foundation and After-History of the Christian Church, it may be well to consider what that Church really is.

Section 1. Definition of the Church.

[Sidenote: Twofold nature of the Church.]

The Church may be regarded in a twofold aspect, as an external Corporation, and as a spiritual Body.

[Sidenote: 1. An external Kingdom.]

In the first light it is a Kingdom, in the world, though not of the world, extending through different and widely-separated countries, often seemingly divided by outward circumstances, but, in reality, having all its parts subject to the same Invisible King, governed by laws which He has given, and by means of those whom He has appointed to be His representatives on earth.

[Sidenote: 2. A spiritual Body.]

In its spiritual sense the Church is the One Mystical Body of Christ, of which men are made members by Holy Baptism, and in which they are nourished and built up by the Holy Eucharist, and the other means of grace. These means of grace {2} are dispensed by Priests, who receive authority and power to execute their ministerial functions from Bishops, successors of the Apostles, and are assisted in their ministry by the inferior order of Deacons.

[Sidenote: Future destiny of the Church.]

The members of this Mystical Body, after passing through their appointed probation in this world, and being built up more and more, if they continue faithful, into Christ their Head, are removed to join the Church at rest in Paradise. There they await the Resurrection and Final Judgment, after which the |Church Militant here on earth| will become the Church Triumphant in Heaven.

[Sidenote: The Church exists through and by the Incarnation, applied to each individual in Holy Baptism, and the Holy Eucharist.]

The existence of the Church is the consequence and fruit of the Incarnation and Death of her Divine Head; the spiritual life of all her members being derived from their union with our Blessed Lord's Sacred Humanity, whereby they are also made |partakers of the Divine Nature,| their birth-sin being at the same time washed away by the Virtue of His Cleansing Blood. This Life, once begun, is kept up in faithful Christians by believing and persevering use of the Mystical Food provided for its sustenance in their souls -- the Blessed Body and Precious Blood thus given to them being a continual extension of the Incarnation; whilst their actual sins are forgiven by the absolving Word of the Priest, and the Pleading of the One Sacrifice, unceasingly presented in Heaven, and constantly shown forth and mystically offered on the Altars of the Church on earth.

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[Sidenote: Foreshadowings of the Church and the Redeemer's sacrifice under the Patriarchal]

From the time of the Fall and the merciful Promise of a Redeemer, |the Seed of the woman,| there is also a foreshadowing of the Church as the appointed way by which mankind should lay hold on the salvation thus provided for them. The Patriarchs were priests in their own tribes, for which they continually offered up sacrifices to Almighty God; and to this patriarchal system succeeded the Mosaical Dispensation with an elaborate ceremonial, each minute detail of which was laid down by direct revelation from God Himself.

[Sidenote: and Mosaic dispensations.]

In this system of Divine Worship given to Moses, sacrifices of animals still held the most prominent place, typifying as they did the great Oblation to come, and perhaps conveying a certain Sacramental grace to the devout offerers and partakers of them. To these perpetual sacrifices, offered morning by morning and evening by evening, there was also joined a continual round of praise and thanksgiving. [Sidenote: Much of the Jewish ritual absorbed in the Christian Church.] When our Blessed Lord came |to fulfil the Law,| this Jewish ritual was in a great measure engrafted into the worship of the Christian Church. The Passover feast, as well as animal sacrifices and the feeding on them, were done away, and replaced by the |Unbloody Sacrifice| and Sacramental Communion of the Gospel covenant, whilst circumcision and ceremonial purifications disappeared to make room for the |true Circumcision of the Spirit,| and the regenerating streams of Holy Baptism. But the |Hours of Prayer| and Praise were still retained, |the singers arrayed in white| became the white-robed choirs of the Christian Church, and the threefold order of the Christian {4} ministry represented the High Priest, Priests, and Levites of the old dispensation.

[Sidenote: Jewish Worship a preparation for Christian Worship.]

We must not be led to think that the Jewish Worship was contrary to the Mind of God, for He Himself appointed it. It was, without doubt, a part of the great Scheme of Redemption -- a preparation for the Gospel, the means ordained by the Divine Wisdom for keeping up in men's minds the future Coming of the Messiah. But when the Great Deliverer was indeed come, there was no further need for the types and shadows of the Law, and they disappeared to make way for the |substance| of the Gospel. [Sidenote: The Church Militant a preparation for the Church Triumphant.] So when the number of the elect shall be accomplished, and the Church Militant changed into the Church Triumphant, her Worship and her Sacraments will have their full fruition in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and the unceasing adoration of the redeemed in the Heavenly Temple.

Section 2. Our Lord's Work in the Foundation of the Church.

[Sidenote: Our Lord prepared for the Foundation of His Church by instituting Holy Baptism and the Holy Eucharist, and by appointing the twelve Apostles.]

Our Blessed Lord's Ministry was spent in making preparations for the foundation of His Church. At His first entrance on that Ministry, He |sanctified Water to the mystical washing away of sin;| at the close of it, He blessed the elements of Bread and Wine, and made them the channels of His constant Presence with His Church, |a perpetual memory of His Precious Death| before God. He also appointed human instruments, who, in His Name and by His Authority, should carry out {5} this mighty work, and be the foundation-stones of the new spiritual building, bonded together and firmly established in Him the |Chief Corner Stone.| |The wall of the City had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.|

[Sidenote: The Apostles taught and trained by our Lord's Example and Teaching.]

The Apostles were solemnly set apart by our Lord after a night of watching and prayer, and from that time became His constant companions, witnessing His mighty works, listening to the words of Heavenly Wisdom which fell from His Sacred Lips, and thus experiencing, under the guidance of the Head of the Church Himself, such a training as might best fit them for their superhuman labours. [Sidenote: Special instructions given them, and not understood until after the Day of Pentecost.] A large portion of what is now stored up in the Holy Gospel for the instruction of the whole body of Christians, was in the first instance spoken to the Apostles with a special view to their Apostolic vocation; to them it was |given to know the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.| Doubtless much of what they were thus taught remained unexplained |Mysteries| to them until the Coming of the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost to |guide them into {6} all Truth,| and especially to instruct them in the real meaning of what had before seemed to be |hard sayings| in their Master's Teaching.

[Sidenote: This Teaching continued after the Resurrection.]

Again, after our Blessed Lord's Passion and Resurrection, we read that He was |seen of them forty days, speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God,| i.e. to the Church, the Kingdom which, by the agency of the Twelve Apostles, He was about to establish in this world. No record is left us as to what these |things| were of which He spake to them; but we cannot doubt that the Words of Divine Wisdom would remain deeply engraven on their hearts, and be a treasure of strength and counsel in the trials and perplexities of the untried path which lay before them, the Holy Spirit |bringing to their remembrance| any sayings of the Saviour which human frailty might have hindered them from remembering.

[Sidenote: A commission given to the Apostles for all their official acts,]

The Apostles received from the Great High Priest before His Ascension, a commission to execute the various functions of the priestly office, to baptize, to teach, to consecrate and offer the Holy Eucharist, and to absolve; besides a general and comprehensive promise that all their official acts should be confirmed by Him, in the words, |Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.| [Sidenote: but not exerted till after Pentecost.] We do not, however, find that this commission was acted on by the Apostles before the day of Pentecost; the Saviour's will was, that it should, so to {7} speak, lie dormant until the seal of the Holy Spirit was impressed upon it. During the days of expectation which followed our Lord's Ascension, we read that the holy company who were gathered together in the |upper room,| |continued with one accord in prayer and supplication;| but we have no mention of any celebration of the Holy Eucharist, whilst immediately after the Descent of the Holy Ghost we are told of their daily continuance in |the Breaking of the Bread.|

Section 3. The Day of Pentecost.

[Sidenote: A.D.33. Participation of the Blessed Trinity in the works of Creation, the Incarnation, and the Foundation of the Church.]

As the Three Holy Persons of the Ever-blessed Trinity had shared in the work of the First Creation of the world, the Father speaking by the Eternal Word, and the Holy Spirit brooding over what before was lifeless: and as in the work of the Incarnation the Father had sent the Son to take upon Him our human nature through the operation of the Holy Ghost: so, in the Foundation of the Church, the Power of the Holy Spirit co-operated no less than the Will of the Father and the Life-giving Grace of the Son.

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[Sidenote: The waiting at Jerusalem.]

The Apostles had received from their ascending Lord a command to await in the City of Jerusalem this |Power from on High,| which was to be sent upon them. We can easily see the fitness of this injunction, when we remember that they were about to become the founders of the New Jerusalem, the true |City of God| in which the many |glorious things spoken| by the Old Testament Prophets were to have their performance to a certain extent even in this life, but fully and perfectly in the Life to come.

[Sidenote: St. Matthias chosen.]

Immediately after our Lord's Ascension the Apostles, under the immediate guidance of Almighty God, made choice by lot of St. Matthias to fill up the vacancy in the Apostolic Body caused by the apostasy of Judas, and then awaited in prayer and worship the promised Coming of the Comforter. [Sidenote: The coming of the Holy Ghost.] After ten days of expectation, on the morning of the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, the Promise was fulfilled: with the sound |of a rushing mighty Wind,| with the brightness of |cloven tongues like as of fire,| the Holy Spirit descended |and sat upon each of| the Apostles. Thus they were inspired and enlightened with Power and Knowledge, and all the other sevenfold gifts of the Paraclete in fuller measure than had ever been vouchsafed to the Prophets and Teachers of old, as well as with miraculous endowments, that so they might be enabled to carry out the Commission entrusted to them by their Master.

[Sidenote: The gift of Tongues.]

One effect of this wonderful Visitation was {9} immediately and strikingly apparent to all who stood by, for on these twelve unlearned men of lowly birth was bestowed the power of speaking fluently and intelligibly in languages of which, before, they had been altogether ignorant. [Sidenote: The people come together.] The fame of this great wonder soon spread amongst the multitude of foreign Jews who were then gathered together at Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Pentecost; many of them were probably at that very time in the Temple, of which the |upper room| is thought to have formed a part, and they quickly came around the Apostles, anxious to judge for themselves of the truth of what had been told them. [Sidenote: Their amazement.] Very great was their astonishment at what they heard. It seems as if words are multiplied in the Sacred Narrative to impress us with a sense of their awe and wonder. It is said that they |were confounded| or |troubled in mind,| that |they were all amazed and marvelled;| and again, that |they were all amazed, and were in doubt| at this startling exhibition of the |Power| of God. [Sidenote: Though some refused to believe.] Some indeed |mocked,| despising the work of the Spirit, as they had before despised the work of the Son; but many opened their hearts to the softening influence, and of them it may truly be said that |the fear of the Lord| was |the beginning of wisdom.|

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Section 4. St. Peter's First Sermon, and its Results.

[Sidenote: A.D.33. Conversion of the 3000.]

And now at once the converting power of the Church was exercised. St. Peter, the chief of the Apostles, took the lead, as he had already done in the election of St. Matthias, and preached to the impressed and eager multitude that first Christian sermon, which was followed by the conversion and baptism of |about 3000 souls.|

[Sidenote: The promise of St. Peter fulfilled.]

Thus was fulfilled, in one sense at least, the promise of Christ to St. Peter: |Upon this rock I will build My Church;| and he, who first of the Twelve had faith to confess the Godhead of our Blessed Lord, was rewarded by being the first to whom it was given to draw men into that Church, which in His Human Nature Christ had purchased for Himself.

[Sidenote: Further results of St. Peter's sermon.]

In estimating the importance of the results which were brought about by St. Peter's sermon, we must not only take into account the actual number of those who were at once added to the disciples, large as that number was, but we must also remember that many of these converts came from far distant countries, whither, on their departure from Jerusalem, they would carry the tidings of the Faith which they had embraced. Hence they in their turn became forerunners of our Lord and of His Church, preparing the hearts of those amongst whom they dwelt to listen to the proclamation of the {11} Gospel, when, in God's appointed season, it should be preached to them.

Section 3. The First Beginnings of Persecution.

[Sidenote: A.D.33. Growth of the Church.]

The Church now steadily grew in influence and numbers; |The Lord added to the Church daily such as should be| [or |were being|] |saved;| and on the occasion of a second sermon, preached by St. Peter after the healing of the lame man |at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple,| |about five thousand| were converted. [Sidenote: Beginnings of persecution.] The opposition of the Jewish rulers was powerless to check the ever-advancing tide; and this first beginning of persecution, by calling forth from the whole Church an earnest act of worship and supplication, was the occasion of |great power| and |great grace| being given to enable her to do and bear all for the sake of her Lord.

[Sidenote: Conversion of St. Barnabas.]

Immediately afterwards we read of the conversion of St. Barnabas, the first convert mentioned by name, a Levite, and apparently a man of wealth and position; and then we are told of the awe and reverence produced in the minds of the people of Jerusalem, and the neighbouring country, by the abundant exercise of the Apostolic power of working miracles. [Sidenote: The gift of working miracles.] This great working gift of the Holy Ghost, bestowed, like the Gift of Tongues, on the Day of Pentecost, had similar results. Fear was followed by faith, and {12} |multitudes both of men and women| were added to the Church.

Persecution once more followed, this time with greater severity; the Apostles were imprisoned through the influence of the sect of the Sadducees, and, being set free by a miracle, were called before the Sanhedrim and scourged, only escaping death by the wise and merciful interposition of the Pharisee Gamaliel.

Section 6. Worship and Discipline of the Infant Church.

[Sidenote: A.D.33.]

Before going farther into the History of the Church, we may pause to consider the account given us in Holy Scripture of Christian Worship and Discipline in the time immediately following the Day of Pentecost. The same chapter which contains the narrative of the Descent of the Holy Ghost, has also a short epitome of the daily life of the Apostles and their converts, during that brief interval of undisturbed peace which preceded the beginning of the bitter conflict between the Church and the world.

[Sidenote: Holy Baptism. Apostolic Doctrine.]

First we read of Holy Baptism as the source of the Christian Life, and then of steadfast continuance in the one Faith as taught by the Apostles, who were, so to speak, a kind of living Gospel to their converts. [Sidenote: Oral teaching.] None of the Books of the New Testament were as yet written, so that all instruction being oral, faithful must most fully have sought |the Law| of the Saviour at the |mouth| of His twelve chosen servants, who had listened to His gracious words, and had been themselves taught by {13} Him Who is Wisdom. [Sidenote: Value of tradition.] The Apostles' Creed is a mighty instance of this traditional teaching, which has come down even to our own days; and many points of Church government, and discipline, and ritual, merely hinted at, or not even referred to in the writings of the New Testament, were preserved to the Church by means of spoken tradition. St. Paul several times mentions these oral traditions, and in one instance speaks of them to his converts as equally binding with the written words contained in his Epistles. The substance of such important traditions became ingrained into the system and belief of the Church, and it was thus of comparatively little importance that their exact words were forgotten.

[Sidenote: Apostolic fellowship. Faith and love towards God]

To oneness of |doctrine| belonged also oneness of |fellowship.| There was as yet |no schism in the Body;| and this inward Faith and Love found their outward expression both towards God and towards man. Towards God in |the Breaking of the Bread,| the Daily Sacrifice and Thank-offering of the Holy Eucharist |at home,| i.e. in their own upper room, the first Christian Church, as well as in their constant attendance on the daily |Prayers| and praises still offered up in the Temple. Of the conduct of the first Christians towards each other we are told twice over, immediately after the Outpouring of the Day of Pentecost, and again after that increase of |boldness,| which was granted to the earnest cry of the Church on the approach of persecution.

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[Sidenote: and towards man.]

Both these accounts speak to us of their full realization of the doctrine of the Communion of Saints. They |were together;| they |were of one heart and of one soul:| the need of one was the need of all; each felt his brother's wants, as if he himself suffered; and so great was the liberality of those who had |possessions and goods,| that there was not |any among them that lacked.| |They had all things common,| as to the daily use of God's worldly gifts.

[Sidenote: The Holy Eucharist as a Sacrifice]

The Holy Eucharist was to the Church then, as it is still, the chief act and centre of Divine worship. In this new Sacrifice the Apostles showed forth and pleaded before God, the One Sufficient Sacrifice, which they themselves had seen |once offered,| with unspeakable sufferings, and all-prevailing Blood-shedding upon the Cross of Calvary. [Sidenote: and a means of union with Christ.] In it they adored Him, Whom they now acknowledged with every faculty of their souls to be indeed their |Lord| and their |God;| in it they found again the Real and continual, though invisible, Presence of the Master and Friend for Whose sake they had forsaken all earthly ties; and by it they were brought into closer union with Him, than when of old they had walked and talked with Him beside the Galilean Sea, or beneath the olive-trees of Gethsemane; for now, they were indeed |nourished and cherished| by Him and made more and more |members of His Body, of His flesh, and of His bones.| [Sidenote: Thankfulness of the first converts.] What wonder, then, that we read of the |gladness and singleness of heart| of the {15} Apostles and their converts thus living in the constant joy and presence of their Lord, and that |praising God| is mentioned as one of their distinguishing marks: --

|By 'Deo gratias,' as they pass'd,
The faithful folk were surest known;
That watchword for the daily strife
Might well their thoughts and tongues employ,
Who made the Church transform their life,
And the great Offering crown their joy.|

[Sidenote: Continued attendance of the Apostles on the Temple Services.]

We may here remark the many indications which are given us throughout the Book of Acts, that the Apostles, who were themselves Jews, did not, even after the Foundation of the Christian Church, oppose or neglect Jewish ordinances and worship, so long and so far as the union of the two dispensations was practicable. In this they followed the example of their Divine Master, Who, from His Circumcision upwards, paid obedience to that Law which He came to fulfil, and Who was a constant attendant at the services of the Temple and of the Synagogues. There was no violent rending away from the old Faith, until God, in His wisdom and justice, saw fit to ordain the destruction of the guilty city Jerusalem, and the overthrow of the Jewish Temple, and Altar, and Priesthood, none of which had then any further purpose to serve in the Divine plan for the redemption of mankind.

[Sidenote: In the cases of St. Peter and St. John,]

Thus we read of St. Peter and St. John going up to the Temple to worship at the ninth hour of prayer, and of their afterwards preaching to the people in that part of the {16} Temple called Solomon's porch, of the daily preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles in the Temple, and of their constant resort to the Jewish Synagogues during their stay in such places as possessed them. [Sidenote: and of St. Paul.] Even five and twenty years after the day of Pentecost we find that the very tumult which resulted in St. Paul's apprehension and consequent journey as a prisoner to Rome, was immediately excited by his having |entered into the Temple,| in performance of one of the ceremonies of the Mosaic Law.

Section 7. The First Schism and the Appointment of the Diaconate.

[Sidenote: A. D.33. The first deadly sin in the Church.]

Great and deadly sin had already made its way into Christ's fold, and been cast out from the midst of it by a fearful judgment. Ananias and Sapphira had |lied unto God,| and been struck dead for their impiety; and the |great fear| excited by this first display of the judicial powers of the Church had been followed by another influx of conversions; for |multitudes were added to the Lord.| [Sidenote: A.D.34. The first schism.] And now came the first division in the body, |a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews.|

[Sidenote: Distinction between |Grecians| (or Hellenists) and |Hebrews.|]

By the |Grecians| are meant those Jews of foreign birth and education who had adopted Greek customs and the Greek language so entirely, that some even of their most learned men did not understand Hebrew {17} but read the Scriptures of the Old Testament in the Septuagint Version. They were much despised by the stricter and more narrow-minded |Hebrews,| the natives of Palestine, or Syro-Chaldaic Jews; and the rivalries of these two Jewish sects were carried even into the bosom of Christ's Church. [Sidenote: Complaint of the |Grecians.|] The Grecians, or |Hellenists| complained that their widows were neglected in the daily distribution of alms; perhaps grounding their complaint on the fact that the Twelve were all Hebrews. [Sidenote: Deacons ordained.] And the Apostles commanded that |seven men of honest report| should be chosen from the body of believers, and presented to them, that they might be ordained by Imposition of Hands to minister to the bodily wants of the poor and aged. This was the first institution of the Order of Deacons, the lowest of the three holy offices which were to be continually handed down and perpetuated in the Church. Thus did the Apostles begin to impart to others such a portion of the ministerial grace, of which they themselves had been at first the sole recipients, as might enable those whom they ordained to aid them, in a subordinate degree, in the work of building up the mystical Body of Christ.

[Sidenote: Increasing conversions.]

This fresh proof of the vitality of the Church through the active, living Presence of her Divine Head, was followed by a new feature in the still increasing conversions to her fold. It was no longer the poor and the unlearned only, or chiefly, who listened to the teaching of the Apostles, {18} |a great company of the Priests were obedient to the Faith,| while, on the other hand, a growing and more bitter spirit of persecution was soon to develope itself.

Section 8. The Martyrdom of St. Stephen.

[Sidenote: A.D.34. The Seven Deacons.]

St. Stephen, the foremost and saintliest of the Seven Deacons, and St. Philip, the second in order, are the only two of whom we have any further mention in the Book of Acts; but it is believed that the last named, Nicolas of Antioch, was the author of the heresy of the Nicolaitanes, which our Blessed Lord twice over tells us that He hates. Nicolas seems in this way to be a sad reflection of the awful example set by the traitor Judas, the last reckoned Apostle.

[Sidenote: Their functions.]

It is clear that the ministrations of the first Deacons were not of necessity confined to the |serving of tables,| which was the primary occasion of their appointment. St. Philip both preached and baptized; and St. Stephen brought down upon himself the hatred and malice of the Jews by the boldness and power of his preaching. Both preaching and baptizing do still, under certain restrictions, |appertain to the office of a Deacon.|

[Sidenote: Probably all Hellenists.]

Judging from the names of the Seven Deacons, there seems good reason for supposing that they were all or most of them Grecians or {19} Hellenists. St. Stephen was undoubtedly a Hellenist, and his early training made him a ready instrument for the work to which the Holy Ghost had called him. Freed by education from many of the associations and feelings which bound his Hebrew brethren to the Holy City and the Temple, he could realize more plainly than they could do, the future of the Christian Church apart from both these, and boldly proclaimed his convictions. [Sidenote: St. Stephen's preaching rouses Hebrew prejudices.] By this conduct he aroused all the deeply-rooted prejudices and exclusive pride of the Jewish mind, even amongst those who, like himself, were Hellenists, and to whom he seems more particularly to have addressed himself. Up to this time, what opposition there was to the teaching of the Apostles, seems to have come chiefly from the unbelieving sect of the Sadducees; for the people had espoused the cause of the Christian teachers, and the Pharisees had advocated lenient conduct towards those who confessed, as they themselves did, a belief in the Resurrection. [Sidenote: The Pharisees join with the Saducees in opposition to the Church.] But now all was altered; priests and people, Sadducees and Pharisees, were alike vehement against those who ventured to assert that the |Holy Place and the Law| should ever give way to a Holier than they; and foremost amongst the persecutors was the fiery, earnest, intellectual man who was afterwards the holy Apostle Paul.

[Sidenote: St. Stephen's speech a direct Inspiration.]

The defence of the heavenly-minded Deacon before {20} his malicious and bloodthirsty enemies must be looked upon as a direct Inspiration of the Holy Ghost, a fulfilment of our Blessed Lord's promise to His Church, and a Divine commentary on Old Testament History, showing that God's mercies were not restrained to any particular place or country, and upbraiding the Jews with their abuse of their many privileges and their rejection of the Saviour. But the words of this first Christian |Apology against Judaism| fell for the time on unheeding ears; and its only present apparent result was the violent and yet triumphant death of him who had been chosen to utter it. [Sidenote: His blessed martyrdom.] Beneath the stoning of the enraged multitude, the First Martyr |fell asleep,| blessed in his last moments with a foretaste of the Beatific Vision.

Section 9. Results of St. Stephen's Martyrdom.

[Sidenote: A.D.34. Good brought out of evil for the Church.]

We may here pause to recollect how God had all along been bringing forth good out of seeming evil, in what concerned His Church. The first dawnings of persecution drew down increased |boldness| in answer to thankful prayer; the first great necessity for exercising the judicial office of the Church was followed by |great fear| and multiplied conversions, as well as by the first miracles of healing wrought in the Church; the first schism was the occasion of the origin of the Order of Deacons, directly after which event we hear of |a great company of the priests being obedient to the Faith,| {21} the first martyrdom helped to bring about the conversion of the chief persecutor; and now the first general persecution which came upon the Church was to have for its result a far more widely-spread diffusion of the knowledge of the Kingdom of God than had before taken place.

[Sidenote: Extension of the Church according to our Lord's promise.]

This extension of the Church was in exact accordance with our Lord's words to His Apostles just before His Ascension, that they should be witnesses unto Him |in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.| Jerusalem was already |filled with| their |doctrine,| and now the disciples were |scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria,| and |went every where preaching the Word.| [Sidenote: Still confined to Jews, and Samaritans, or to proselytes.] Still it would seem that they confined their preaching to such as were either Hebrews, or Grecians, i.e. foreigners more or less professing Judaism; or, as in the case of the Samaritans, to such as were of mixed Jewish descent, and clung to the Law of Moses, though with manifold corruptions; or, again, to proselytes like the Ethiopian eunuch. The Apostles, we read, continued at Jerusalem, doubtless by God's command and under His special protection.

[Sidenote: Conversion of Samaria.]

The conversion of the despised city of Samaria was effected by the instrumentality of the Deacon St. Philip, whose preaching and miracles were followed by the baptism of large numbers of the people, and, amongst them, of one Simon {22} of Gittum, better known as Simon Magus (i.e. the magician, or sorcerer), who had claimed supernatural powers, and given himself out to be an emanation from the Deity, or even God Himself. [Sidenote: St. Peter and St. John sent to confirm.] St. Philip, as a Deacon, could not complete the gift begun in Holy Baptism, and St. Peter and St. John were sent down by the Apostles from Jerusalem, that they might confirm the Samaritan converts by prayer and the Imposition of Hands. Confirmation in those early days of the Church was wont to be accompanied by a bestowal of miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost; and the wondrous signs following upon this, the first Confirmation mentioned in God's history of His Church, led the still unbelieving Simon to long for the ability to confer similar powers. [Sidenote: The unbelief of Simon Magus.] He dared to offer money to the Apostles with this view, and drew from St. Peter such a reproof as for a time pierced through even the heart which had hardened by an abuse of holy things. But this penitence was of short duration. He became the author in the Church of a deadly heresy called Gnosticism, mixing up what he had learnt of the doctrines of Christianity with heathen philosophy and sinful living, and making pretence of being endowed with miraculous gifts. [Sidenote: His end.] This first heretic is said to have perished miserably whilst endeavouring to fly through the air at Rome, St. Peter praying at the same time that he might no longer be suffered to hinder the salvation of souls.

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[Sidenote: The Gospel preached in Antioch.]

Another important result of the Sauline persecution was the preaching of the Gospel in the important city of Antioch by the Greek-speaking Jews who sought refuge there, and who addressed themselves to their Hellenist countrymen. It was in this city, the third in rank in the Roman Empire, and afterwards the mother of Gentile Christendom, that the first branch of the Church speaking Greek as its original tongue, was now beginning to have its foundation; and it was also here that the disciples were first called by the honourable name of Christians.

Section 10. The Conversion of St. Paul.

[Sidenote: A.D.34.]

It has been said |that, to combine the ceremonial shortcoming of the eunuch with the imperfect faith of the Samaritan, is to arrive at the admission of the Gentiles.| Preparation had been made in both these instances for the carrying out of the Divine scheme by means of St. Philip, whose fellow-Deacon had gladly laid down his life in witnessing to the truth of it; and now God's great instrument for the conversion of the gentile world was to appear.

[Sidenote: Conversion of Saul.]

The furious persecutor Saul was struck to the earth by the sight and voice of the Lord, whose disciples at Damascus he was bent upon ill-using; and his miraculous conversion was followed by his baptism and the devotion of all his powers to the promulgation of that |Faith which once he destroyed.|

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[Sidenote: His fitness for his mission.]

It is not hard to perceive in St. Paul a peculiar fitness for the work to which God called him. His zeal and self-devotion, deep affections, and warm sympathies, were joined to clearness of judgment and great intellectual powers; whilst, from the circumstances of his birth and education, he had much in common with both Hebrew and Hellenist Jews. Though born in the Greek city of Tarsus, where he came in contact with the classical ideas and learning of which traces appear in his writings, his father was a Hebrew, and sent him to finish his education at Jerusalem under the care of the learned Pharisee Gamaliel. Thus he became zealous in the Law; and hence his deep tenderness for his brethren of the seed of Israel, and his thorough insight into their feelings and prejudices, were united to an acquaintance with gentile ways of life, classic learning, and foreign modes of thought.

With St. Paul's conversion came a time of peace and increase to the Church, during which St. Peter's first Apostolic journey took place, undertaken with the especial view of strengthening, by the Laying on of Hands and by Apostolic preaching and counsel, those who, throughout Judea and Samaria, had been regenerated and made |saints| by Holy Baptism.

2 St. Peter i.4.

Rev. xxi.14.

St. Luke vi.12-16.

|Apostle| is derived from the Greek word |Apostolos,| i.e. |one sent.| The Apostles were |sent| by Christ, the Great High Priest and Chief Pastor of the Church, Who comprehended in Himself the whole of the Christian Ministry, whilst the Apostolic Office comprehended all that could be delegated to man. This comprehensive Apostolic Office was afterwards broken up into the three Orders of -- 1. Deacons; 2. Priests and Bishops in one; 3. Bishops. After the special work of Bishops was defined (see chap. iv.), Priests were Priests only, and not Bishops, unless they had special consecration to the higher office.

Acts i.3.

St. John xiv.26.

St. Matt. xxviii.19.

St. Matt. xxviii.20.

St. Luke xxii.19, 20.

St. John xx.21, 22.

St. Matt. xxviii.20.

Acts i.13, 14.

Acts ii.42, 46. It is said (St. John iv.2) that |the disciples of Jesus baptized;| but this baptism, like that of St. John Baptist, was a |baptism of repentance,| not of Regeneration -- a preparation for the Gospel, not a consequence of it. So the preaching of the Apostles, spoken of in St. Matt. x.7, was (like the Baptist's preaching) an announcement that |the Kingdom of Heaven| was not come; but |at hand,| and an exhortation to make ready for it.

St. Luke xxiv.49.

Ps. lxxxvii.3.

Acts ii.1-3.

Isa. xi.2, 3.

Acts ii.1-13.

Acts ii.14-41.

St. Matt. xvi.18.

Acts ii.47.

Acts iii.

Acts iv.

Acts iv.36, 37.

Acts v.12-16.

Acts ii.41-47.

2 Thess. ii.15. See also ch. iii.6. 1 Cor. xi.2. |Ordinances,| margin |Traditions.|

Acts ii.46 (margin).

Acts iv.31-37.

Eph. v.29, 30.

Poems by Prof. Bright..

Acts iii.1.

Acts iii.11.

Acts v.42.

Acts xiii.5.14; xiv.1; xvii.1, 2; xviii.4.

Acts xxi.26-33.

Acts v.1-14.

Acts vi.1, &c.

Deacon, from |Diaconos,| a Greek word, meaning a ministering attendant.

Acts vi.7.

Rev. ii.6.15.

Acts viii.5.38.

See Office for |Making of Deacons,| Book of Common Prayer.

Cp. Acts iv.1, 2, 5, 6, and Acts v.17.

Acts ii.47; iv.21; v.13.26.

Acts v.34-40.

It seems not unlikely that Saul of Tarsus in Cilicia was one |of them of Cilicia| mentioned in Acts vi.9.

St. Luke xii.11, 12.

Acts vii.56.

Acts viii.1.4.

Acts xi.19, 20.

It may be, that the recollection of our Saviour's visit to the neighbouring city of Sychar, or Sichem [St. John iv.], would help to influence the Samaritans.

From the rather indistinct account of Simon's death, it seems probable that he became a victim to such a temptation as the |Cast Thyself down,| which was set before our Lord.

Acts xi.19, 20.

Acts xi.26.

See |Some Account of the Church in the Apostolic Age,| by the late Professor Shirley, p.27.

Acts ix.32.

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