Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

foreign languages. But when they, and others who believed on Jesus, assembled together, soon after his death, on the day of Pentecost, it is recorded that "there was a sound from heaven, as of a mighty rushing wind, and cloven tongues, like as of fire appeared and sat upon each of them." Whereupon, they immediately received the gift of speaking all languages; and Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Arabians, who were present at Jerusalem, were astonished to hear those ignorant Galileans speaking to every man in his own tongue. Peter seized the occasion to urge this miracle as one of the promised precursors of the Messiah's kingdom, and a proof that it was nigh at hand. Jesus had said, during his lifetime, that he had many things to tell them, which they were not qualified to receive; and he had promised to send his Spirit, who would teach them all things. It was believed that this Holy Spirit descended upon them in the form of flaming tongues, and by the supernatural power thus imparted they were thenceforth perfect mediums of divine truth. The number of believers at that time were only one hundred and twenty; but this great miracle drew multitudes round them, and it is stated that three thousand converts were baptized in one day, in consequence of Peter's fervent exhortations. "The number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly, and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” The rapid growth of a new sect, so poor and despised, naturally aroused the jealous animosity of old established sects. The wrath thus excited fell principally on Stephen, a preacher “full of faith and power, who did great wonders and miracles among the people.” They accused him of speaking " blasphemous words against Moses and against God;" and doubtless it really appeared so to men educated in unquestioning reverence for old laws and traditions. A mob cast him out of Jerusalem, and stoned him to death. With his dying breath, he prayed to the Lord not to lay this sin to their charge. This sublime spirit of forgiveness attracted new proselytes. Persecution waxed hotter and hotter, and the believers were scattered abroad, many of them into foreign cities.

Soon after this, the number of apostles was increased by the miraculous conversion of Paul, a learned Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin, who had been educated a strict Pharisee. When the heretical sect founded by Jesus began to emerge from obscurity, in consequence of increasing numbers, he was zealous in persecuting its teachers. He was hastening on such a mission, when he was struck blind by a sudden

a light from heaven, and beard the voice of Jesus remonstrating with him for the course he was pursuing. In consequence of this, he began to preach the new doctrine with extraordinary boldness and power. He encountered innumerable perils, but, like the other apostles, he was sustained through them all, by a strong belief in the immediate coming of Jesus, to establish the Messiah's kingdom. He expresses it thus unequivocally in a letter addressed to his converts: “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. The dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.”

The Oriental doctrine that Matter was the source of all evil never formed a part of Jewish theology; hence they do not appear to have held the body in such hatred and contempt, as did the devout of many other ancient nations. Their Sacred Books contain no eulogiums upon virginity; on the contrary, they indicate that a numerous family was always regarded as an honour and a blessing. Their High Priests married; and the only tendency to Oriental ideas on this subject is seen in the requisition that they should live apart from their wives while ministering in the temple, during the holiest seasons. Nothing approaching to asceticism on this subject is discoverable in the teaching of Jesus. His allusions to marriage are slight, but they imply approbation of that institution, and urge its sacredness. He and his mother are also mentioned as present at a wed

a

ding, where he miraculously changed water into wine for ihe guests assembled to celebrate the event. A transition state of feeling on this subject is first indicated in the preaching of Paul, who seems to answer queries that had arisen, among his Gentile converts, whether a state of celibacy were essential to holiness. He leaves the question open; simply remarking that those who remained unmarried, like himself, did better than those who married. Both Matthew and Paul, in their writings, allude to Peter's wife; and, according to traditions of the early Christian Fathers, several of the apostles were married men.

They say Peter, in his missionary travels, was accompanied by his wife and a beautiful daughter, named Petronilla; both of whom died martyrs to the Christian religion. Bartholomew, and Philip, are said to have been married; and several daughters of the latter are mentioned. It is also recorded that the apostle Jude had two grandsons.

The biographers of Jesus declare, that just before he ascended into heaven, he promised his disciples that they, and all others who believed on him, should be enabled to work miracles; that they should handle serpents and take poison without injury, heal the sick, cast out devils, and speak languages they never learned ; and we find all these miracles recorded of them. They perceived the secret thoughts of men, healed those who were born lame, cast out devils, and restored the dead to life. When some of them were imprisoned, their dungeons were illuminated by angel visiters, who came and let them out by night. They passed the sentinels invisibly, and doors and gates opened of their own accord. When magistrates sent in the morning to bring them to trial, the doors were found locked, and the sentinels at their post, but the prisoners had vanished. When Paul and Barnabas landed on the island of Malta, venomous vipers fastened on their hands, and people expected to see them fall down dead. When they shook off the reptiles and remained unharmed, they believed them to be miracle-workers, and brought sick people to them, who were cured as soon as they laid their

[ocr errors]

hands upon them and prayed. The idea of Deities in human forms was so familiar to the popular mind, that when the inhabitants of Malta saw these wonderful works, they at once exclaimed that Barnabas was Jupiter, and Paul was Mercury. Priests came to worship them, bringing oxen and garlands; but they forbade it, assuring them that they were merely men. It is recorded that not only the apostles themselves, but their garments also were in. vested with miraculous power; so that the diseased were immediately healed, and devils departed from them, if a handkerchief was brought to them from Paul. The sick were placed on couches in the street, that they might be cured by the shadow of Peter falling on them as he passed. When Jewish exorcists attempted to expel devils by commanding them to depart in the name of Jesus, the Evil Spirits fell upon them and wounded them, exclaiming: “Jesus we know, and Paul we know; but who are ye?" When the apostles baptized converts, and laid their hands on them, the Holy Spirit was imparted to them by the process, so that they also could speak unknown languages, and perform other miracles.

The first converts to the new doctrine were Jews; some of them Palestine Jews, who spoke the Aramean or Syro-Chaldean language; others were Western, or Hellenistic Jews, who were scattered through various provinces of the Roman empire, and spoke Greek. The latter class of converts were far more numerous than the former; because the necessity of mingling with foreign nations had already accustomed them to modify their ancient opinions. Nevertheless, in the beginning, Christianity was unavoidably somewhat national and exclusive in its character, being preached by Jews and addressed to Jews. The church at Jerusalem resisted changes much longer than other churches. But even those who became mixed with Gentile converts in Antioch, Ephesus, Alexandria, Rome, and other foreign cities, found it very difficult to disembarrass themselves of the idea that the religion taught by their Messiah was for the house of Israel only; and that if

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

others wished to embrace it, they must first become Jews. Paul had far less of this feeling than any other of the earliest Christian teachers, having received a superior edu cation, and associated more with foreigners. Yet even he, when he took Timothy with him to preach in regions where many Jews resided, deemed it prudent that he should be circumcised, because it was known that his father was a Greek. At the commencement of Paul's missionary labours, in all the cities he visited, he first attempted to teach in the synagogues, and a large majority of his hearers opposed him violently. Finding his efforts to convert the Jews at Corinth were nearly in vain, he said: “Your blood be upon your own heads. I am clean. Henceforth, I go unto the Gentiles." Afterward, when he went to Ephesus, still attracted toward his own countrymen, he taught three months in the

synagogue. “But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them,” and thenceforth argued " in the school of one Tyrannus."

It was the pliable nature of Polytheism to part more easily with old predilections. Simple and earnest souls among the Greeks and Romans were repelled by ceremonials of the Mosaic law, and by its intolerance toward foreigners, while they were powerfully attracted by the gentle and sympathising character of Christ, and by the assured hope of rising from the dead, based on his resurrection. Paul, finding a greater number of proselytes among them than among the Jews, made it an especial object to render the religion of Jesus acceptable to the Gentiles. This process necessarily involved the breaking down of many Jewish barriers. Accordingly, he boldly attacked the prejudices of his countrymen, by asking: “Is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also. It is one God who shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith.” “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Forbidden

[ocr errors]
« ÖncekiDevam »