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captive," that "the promise of the Father" was fulfilled, which they had heard from him. It was then he began to work like himself, showing that "all power was given to him in heaven and earth." "When the day of pentecost was fully come, suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and there appeared tongues as of fire; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost," Acts ii, 1, &c. In consequence of this, three thousand souls received medicine to heal their sickness; were restored to the favour and the image of God, under one sermon of St. Peter's, chap. ii, verse 41. “And the Lord added to them daily," [not such as should be saved; a manifest perversion of the text; but,]"such as were saved." The expression is peculiar; and so indeed is the position of the words; which run thus: "And the Lord added those that were saved, daily, to the church." First, they "were saved" from the power of sin; then they "were added" to the assembly of the faithful.

9. In order clearly to see how they were already saved, we need only observe the short account of them, which is recorded in the latter part of the second, and in the fourth chapter. "They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, and in the fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers:" that is, they were daily taught by the apostles, and had all things common, and daily received the Lord's supper, and attended all the public service, chap. ii, 41. "And all that believed, were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions, and parted them to all men, as every man had need," chap. ii, 41–45. And again: "The multitude of them that believed," now greatly increased, "were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common," chap. iv, 31, 32. And yet again: "Great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that Jacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses, sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet; and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need," verses 34, 35.

10. But here a question will naturally occur: How came they to act thus, to have all things in common, seeing we do not read of any positive command to do this? I answer, there needed no outward command: the command was written on their hearts. It naturally and necessarily resulted from the degree of love which they enjoyed. Observe! They were of one heart, and of one soul;" and not so much as one [so the words run] said, [they could not while their hearts so overflowed with love,] "that any of the things which he possessed was his own." And wheresoever the same cause shall prevail, the same effect will naturally follow.

11. Here was the dawn of the proper gospel day. Here was a proper Christian church. It was now "the Sun of righteousness" rose upon the earth, "with healing in his wings." He did now save his people from their sins:" he "healed all their sickness." He not only taught that religion which is the true "healing of the soul," but effectually planted it in the earth, filling the souls of all that believed in him with righteousness,-gratitude to God, and good will to man; attended with a peace that surpassed all understanding, and with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

12. But how soon did "the mystery of iniquity" work again, and obscure the glorious prospect! It began to work (not openly indeed, but covertly) in two of the Christians; Ananias and Sapphira. "They sold their possession," like the rest, and probably from the same motive; but, afterwards, giving place to the devil, and reasoning with flesh and blood, they "kept back part of the price." See the first Christians, that "made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience!" The first that "drew back to perdition:" instead of continuing to "believe to the [final] salvation of the soul!" Mark the first plague which infected the Christian church; namely, the love of money! And will it not be the grand plague in all generations, whenever God shall revive the same work? Oh ye believers in Christ, take warning! Whether you are yet but little children, or young men that are strong in the faith, see the snare; your snare in particular, that which you will be peculiarly exposed to, after you have escaped from gross pollutions. "Love not the world, neither the things of the world! If any man love the world," whatever he was in time past, "the love of the Father is not [now] in him!"

13. However, this plague was stayed in the first Christian church, by instantly cutting off the infected persons. By that signal judgment of God on the first offenders, "great fear came upon all," Acts v, 11; so that, for the present at least, not one dared to follow their example. Meantime believers, men full of faith and love, who rejoiced to have all things in common, were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women," verse 14.

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14. If we inquire in what manner the "mystery of iniquity," the energy of Satan, began to work again in the Christian church, we shall find it wrought in quite a different way; putting on quite another shape: partiality crept in among the Christian believers. Those by whom the distribution to every one was made, had respect of persons; largely supplying those of their own nation, while the other widows, who were not Hebrews, "were neglected in the daily administration," chap. vi, 1. Distribution was not made to them according as every one had need. Here was a manifest breach of brotherly love in the Hebrews; a sin both against justice and mercy: seeing the Grecians, as well as the Hebrews, bad "sold all they had, and laid the price at the apostles' feet." See the second plague that broke in upon the Christian church!-Partiality; respect of persons; too much regard for those of our own side; and too little for others, though equally worthy.

15. The infection did not stop here, but one evil produced many more. From partiality in the Hebrews, "there arose in the Grecians a murmuring against" them; not only discontent and resentful thoughts, but words suitable thereto; unkind expressions, hard speeches, evil speaking, and backbiting, naturally followed. And by the root of bitterness [thus] springing up, [undoubtedly] many were defiled." The apostles indeed soon found out a means of removing the occasion of this murmuring; yet so much of the evil root remained, that God saw it needful to use a severer remedy. He let loose the world upon them all; if haply by their sufferings, by the spoiling of their goods, by pain, imprisonment, and death itself, he might at once punish and amend them. And persecution, God's last remedy for a backsliding people, had the happy effect for which he intended it. Both the partiality of

the Hebrews ceased, and the murmuring of the Grecians: and "then had the churches rest, and were edified;" built up in the love of God and one another; " and, walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied," Acts ix, 31.

16. It seems to have been some time after this, that "the mystery of iniquity" began to work in the form of zeal. Great troubles arose by means of some who zealously contended for circumcision, and the rest of the ceremonial law; till the apostles and elders put an end to the spreading evil, by that final determination," It seemeth good unto the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay on you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication," chap. xv, 28, 29. Yet was not this evil so thoroughly suppressed, but that it frequently broke out again; as we learn from various parts of St. Paul's epistles, particularly that to the Galatians.


17. Nearly allied to this was another grievous evil, which at the same time sprang up in the church; want of mutual forbearance, and, of consequence, anger, strife, contention, variance. One very remarkable instance of this we find in this very chapter. When "Paul said to Barnabas, Let us visit the brethren where we have preached the word, Barnabas determined to take with him John;" because he was "his sister's son." "But Paul thought it not good to take him who had deserted them before." And he had certainly reason on his side. But Barnabas resolved to have his own way. Εγένετο ουν παροξυσμός, and there was a fit of anger. It does not say on St. Paul's side: Barnabas only had passion, to supply the want of reason. Accordingly he departed from the work, and went home; while St. Paul went forward" through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches,"

verse 41.

18. The very first society of Christians at Rome were not altogether free from this evil leaven. There were 66 divisions and offences" among them also, chap. xvi, 17; although, in general, they seem to have "walked in love." But how early did the "mystery of iniquity" work, and how powerfully, in the church at Corinth? Not only schisms and heresies, animosities, fierce and bitter contentions, were among them; but open, actual sins; yea, "such fornication as was not named among the heathens," 1 Cor. v, 1. Nay, there was need to remind them, that "neither adulterers, nor thieves, nor drunkards," could "enter into the kingdom of heaven," chap. vi, 9, 10. And in all St. Paul's epistles we meet with abundant proof, that tares grew up with the wheat in all the churches; and that "the mystery of iniquity" did every where, in a thousand forms, counterwork "the mystery of godliness."

19. When St. James wrote his epistle, directed more immediately "to the twelve tribes scattered abroad," to the converted Jews, the tares sown among this wheat had produced a plentiful harvest. That grand pest of Christianity, a faith without works, was spread far and wide; filling the church with a "wisdom from beneath," which was "earthly, sensual, devilish," and which gave rise, not only to rash judging and evil speaking, but to "envy, strife, confusion, and every evil work." Indeed, whoever peruses the fourth and fifth chapters of this epistle, with serious attention, will be inclined to believe, that even in this early period, the tares had nigh choked the wheat; and that

among most of those to whom St. James wrote, no more than the form of godliness, if so much, was left.

20. St. Peter wrote about the same time "to the strangers," the Christians, "scattered abroad through" all those spacious provinces of " Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia [Minor,] and Bithynia." These, probably, were some of the most eminent Christians that were then in the world. Yet how exceeding far were even these from being "without spot and blemish!" And what grievous tares were here also growing up with the wheat! Some of them were "bringing in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them," 2 Pet. ii, 1, &c: and "many followed their pernicious ways;" of whom the apostle gives that terrible character: "They walk after the flesh," in "the lust of uncleanness, like brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed. Spots they are, and blemishes, while they feast with you;" (in the "feasts of charity," then celebrated throughout the whole church ;) "having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest, for whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever." And yet these very men were called Christians; and were even then in the bosom of the church! Nor does the apostle mention them as infecting any one particular church only; but as a general plague, which even then was dispersed far and wide among all the Christians to whom he wrote!

21. Such is the authentic account of "the mystery of iniquity," working even in the apostolic churches!—an account given, not by the Jews or heathens, but by the apostles themselves. To this we may add the account which is given by the Head and Founder of the church; Him "who holds the stars in his right hand;" who is "the faithful and true Witness." We may easily infer what was the state of the church in general, from the state of the seven churches in Asia. One of these indeed, the church of Philadelphia, had "kept his word, and had not denied his name," Rev. iii, 8; the church of Smyrna was likewise in a flourishing state: but all the rest were corrupted, more or less; insomuch that many of them were not a jot better than the present race of Christians; and our Lord then threatened, what he has long since performed, to remove the candlestick" from them.


22. Such was the real state of the Christian church, even during the first century; while not only St. John, but most of the apostles, were present with and presided over it. But what a mystery is this, that the All-wise, the All-gracious, the Almighty, should suffer it so to be, not in one only, but, as far as we can learn, in every Christian society, those of Smyrna and Philadelphia excepted! And how came these to be excepted? Why were these less corrupted, (to go no farther,) than the other churches of Asia? It seems, because they were less wealthy. The Christians in Philadelphia were not literally" increased in goods," like those at Ephesus and Laodicea; and if the Christians at Smyrna had acquired more wealth, it was swept away by persecution. So that these, having less of this world's goods, retained more of the simplicity and purity of the gospel.

23. But how contrary is this scriptural account of the ancient Christians to the ordinary apprehensions of men! We have been apt to imagine, that the primitive church was all excellence and perfection; answerable to that strong description which St. Peter cites from Moses :

"Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people." And such, without all doubt, the first Christian church, which commenced at the day of pentecost, was. But how soon did the fine gold become dim! How soon was the wine mixed with water! How little time elapsed, before the "god of this world" so far regained his empire, that Christians in general were scarce distinguishable from heathens, save by their opinions and modes of worship!

24. And if the state of the church in the very first century was so bad, we cannot suppose it was any better in the second. Undoubtedly it grew worse and worse. Tertullian, one of the most eminent Christians of that age, has given us an account of it in various parts of his writings, whence we learn that real, internal religion was hardly found; nay, that not only the tempers of the Christians were exactly the same with those of their heathen neighbours, (pride, passion, love of the world, reigning alike in both,) but their lives and manners also. The bearing a faithful testimony against the general corruption of Christians, seems to have raised the outcry against Montanus; and against Tertullian himself, when he was convinced that the testimony of Montanus was true. As to the heresies fathered upon Montanus, it is not easy to find what they were. I believe his grand heresy was, the maintaining that "without" inward and outward "holiness, no man shall see the Lord!"

25. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, in every respect an unexception.ble witness, who flourished about the middle of the third century, has left us abundance of letters, in which he gives a large and particular account of the state of religion in his time. In reading this, one would be apt to imagine, he was reading an account of the present century: so totally void of true religion were the generality both of the laity and clergy, so immersed in ambition, envy, covetousness, luxury, and all other vices, that the Christians of Africa were then exactly the same as the Christians of England are now.

26. It is true, that during this whole period, during the first three centuries, there were intermixed longer or shorter seasons, wherein true Christianity revived. In those seasons the justice and mercy of God let loose the heathens upon the Christians. Many of these were then called to resist unto blood. And "the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church." The apostolic spirit returned; and many "counted not their lives dear unto themselves, so they might finish their course with joy." Many others were reduced to a happy poverty; and, being stripped of what they had loved too well, they "remembered from whence they were fallen, and repented, and did their first works."

27. Persecution never did, never could, give any lasting wound to genuine Christianity. But the greatest it ever received, the grand blow which was struck at the very root of that humble, gentle, patient love, which is the fulfilling of the Christian law, the whole essence of true religion, was struck in the fourth century by Constantine the Great, when he called himself a Christian, and poured in a flood of riches, honours, and power, upon the Christians; more especially upon the clergy. Then was fulfilled in the Christian church, what Velleius Paterculus says of the people of Rome: Sublatâque imperii amulâ, non gradu, sed præcipiti cursu, à virtute descitum, ad vitia transcursum. Just so, when the fear of persecution was removed, and wealth and

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