« PreviousContinue »
“ labour, working with our own hands.”—Impostor's would not adhere to a religion attended with such difficulties , enthusiasts would not endeavour to exhibit an example of active, humble industry, even in the midst of the most severe persecutions, and most important religious avocations. I conclude, that the conduct, as well as the words of the apostles, bespeak truth and soberness.
The conduct of the apostles in the regulation of the
church, proves them to have been exempt from enia thusiasm.
The same fobriety of mind which displayed itself in the personal conduct of the apostles, was equally conspicuous in the regulation of the Christian church, over which they presided. In this view I would call the attention of my reader to a transaction which took place before they entered on their public ministry, and which I notice, because it seems equally inconsistent with imposture and enthusiasm.--Peter collects the disciples, in number one hundred and twenty, and proposes to supply the place of the fallen
Judas. Now was this a measure which impostors would adopt ? If a 'monopoly of power or influence was designed, would the men who possessed this monopoly propose or consent, without any apparent neceffity, to ad:ait an obscure individual to the fame rank, amongst the new converts, which they themselves enjoyed ?—no, certainly. But consider the qualifications required in this substitute, and judge whether they are such as enthusiasts would naturally have selected. Did they look for that individual amongst the converts most distinguished for warm zeal, spiritual extacies, or extravagant austerity ?Far otherwise; no such ideas seem to have once entered into the imagination of the proposer. He looked for those qualities which would give the new apostle's testimony the greatest weight in the judgment of sober reason, but which enthusiasm would have neglected or despised; he fought for one who must have had full opportunity of examining all the facts which it was neceffary he should atteft : 6" Of these “ men, says St. Peter, which have companied with
us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and
out among us, beginning from the baptism of John “ until that same day that he was taken
from 4 must one be ordained to be a witness with us of 6 his refurrection."
a Vid. Herman Pistorius's Notes to Hartley, vol. iii. p. 610, London. 1791, for this part of this remark. b Ads i. 21.
The manner of the election, while it displays a deep and heartfelt piety, with a firm confidence, that the religion they taught was under the immediate protection of that divine Power which had already borne witness to it by the most stupendous miracles ; yet was it as sober and regular as it was pious and fincere. They appointed two persons, and they prayed and said, “ Thou Lord, who knowest the “ hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou “ haft chosen, that he may take part of this ministry “ and apostleship from which Judas by transgression
fell, that he might go to his own place; and they
gave forth their lots, and he on whom the lot “ fell was numbered with the eleven apostles.”—The calm and decorous manner in which the apostate Judas is here mentioned, seems as inconsistent with the violence of enthusiasm, as the qualification fought for in his substitute, and the mode of the selection. All these circumstances bespeak truth and piety; all are inconsistent with fraud or fanaticism.
Another transaction of fomewhat a similar nature, feems equally to prove that the apostles were devoid of every interested view which impostors might entertain, and directed by prudence and discretion in the conduct of their religious concerns, which enthusiasts scarcely ever observe.
6. A&ts i. 24.
The first converts felt their minds impressed by the miracles they beheld with so deep a sense of the importance of religion, above every temporal concern, ' that do
as many as were poffessors of lands or houses “ fold them, and brought the prices of the things " that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' «s feet, and distribution was made to every man (in “'the Christian society) according as he had need.” Now here was an occasion which interested men would have improved to their own advantage, by urging the continuance of this community of goods as a duty, and cautiously reserving to themselves the management of the fund it supplied, as the most valuable appendage of their ministry; on the other hand, enthusiasts would have probably encouraged - this neglect of all temporal concerns with avidity, as suited to the fervor of religious zeal, which in their eyes would form the highest merit. Not so the apoftles of this community of goods they took no advantage ; they distributed to each as they had need; they reserved to themselves, if any thing, certainly no more than supplied the present necessaries of life, as appears from their subsequent and continued poverty; and even present neceffaries they frequently procured by their own labour. And what is equally striking, the whole New Testament does not contain a single passage, representing this community of goods as a duty which Christianity enjoins :—it was an il
d Acts iv. 34, 35.
Iustrious act of liberality, suited to the circumstances existing at that particular place and period, but no where recommended for general adoption. St. Paul confirms the dictates of reason on this subject, by the authority of revelation, when he declares that none have a right to be supported by others, except such as are incapable of providing for themselves, and delțitute of those relatives from whom nature dictates they should obtain relief. In describing the rules by which the distribution of Christian beneficence should be regulated, he directs e « if any widow have chil. 6 dren or nephews, let them learn-first to spew piety
at home, and to requite their parents, for this is "good and acceptable before God; but if any provide
not for his own, and especially for those of his « own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse " than an infidel.” How remote is this from the language of fanaticism?: However, on this subje&. it is necessary farther to observe, that the fingular and unparalleled liberality of the first Christians, undoubtedly placed the apostles in a trying and suspicious situation ; and the manner in which they acted, indiçates prudence and discretion, as strongly as it displays piety and zeal?
“ When the number of the disciples was multiplied, 4. (says the historian) there arose a murmuring of the « Grecians against the Hebrews, because their wi
, Timothy v. 4th and 8th verses.
f Acts vi. 1.