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you tell me how they were brought before rulers and kings for his sake?
M. If we turn to the Acts of the Apostles again, we shall find St. Peter and St. John testifying of our Lord Jesus Christ, and preaching salvation through His name before the Jewish rulers and elders, and Scribes at Jerusalem. So was St. Paul brought for the same cause before the council at Jerusalem and then before the Roman governors Felix and Festus, and before king Agrippa at Cæsarea, and afterwards at Rome itself before the Emperor Nero.
E. And I think our Lord said that some should even be put to death for His sake?
M. He did; and in the Acts we read, very soon after His own departure, of St. Stephen's martyrdom; then of the death of James, the brother of John, whom Herod the king, in order to please the Jews, killed with the sword. And we are told, by uninspired historians, that all the Apostles were among "the glorious martyr train," excepting St. John; and even he escaped, as I said just now, only by miracle: he was thrown into a cauldron of boiling, or rather of burning oil, from which he was wonderfully delivered by divine providence, as Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego were out of the fiery furnace, without any injury whatever.
E. But, Mamma, if the Apostles and their companions were so cruelly treated, I wonder that the Gospel spread at all in the world. I should have thought people would have been afraid to become Christians with such frightful things before them.
M. So it would seem at first sight, Edward: but the peculiar sufferings of the Apostles were in a manner marks that they were really Apostles of
Jesus Christ. At least they were strong and clear proofs, that they had no worldly motive for all they said and did; that they really believed what they taught, and lived themselves for that eternal life which they proclaimed to the world, that God had given to men in His Son Jesus Christ. When Jews and Heathens saw them give up every thing in this world, and submit to suffering of every kind and degree, for the sake of the Gospel, they must have begun to think that there was some truth in that Gospel; something in it worth living, and even worth dying for. They must have wondered too at the victorious patience with which they bore tortures of every kind; and have suspected that it was more than human, and that God was with them of a truth; especially as these were calm and quiet men, rather "slow to believe" than otherwise; attentive to all the regular duties of life; not hurried away by wild enthusiasm, or disorderly feelings; not intoxicated with human learning, but speaking as, St. Paul maintained, "the words of truth and soberness." Then we must remember that these same holy, enduring, indefatigable, and self-denying men wrought miracles, and that by their hands wonderful gifts were bestowed on those that believed; the Holy Ghost accompanying their preaching continually with outward and visible signs of His presence and favour. And thus the persecutions, which were intended to check the Gospel, were the very means of spreading it on every side.
E. Yes; I remember now, it was so at the time of the Reformation. You know, when we read the account of it, you told me that when people saw how bravely and calmly the martyrs died in the flames,
singing praises to God all the time, they began to think that there must be something very good and great in their piety; and then they began to read the Scriptures for themselves.
M. You are quite right; that explains to you how it had been before in the days of the Apostles. Men saw, admired, and believed. Oftentimes the very persecutors themselves, or at least the soldiers and officers employed to put the Christian to death, were converted through his example and died with him. The grace which supported the Apostle, touched the heart of his hearers; and thus amidst crosses, and flames, and torments, and blood, the church of Christ spread and triumphed. Our Lord's prophecy too was fulfilled, that the Gospel opposed as it was by all that was dreadful, or violent, or mighty, should be published unto all nations even before the destruction of Jerusalem. And thus was the justice of the sentence made manifest by which that city was overthrown, in which the Son of God had been crucified.
E. And did all nations become Christian before Jerusalem was destroyed?
M. No; that does not seem to have been the meaning of the prophecy; but merely that the Gospel should be carried into all nations then known, not that it should be received by them all: and in this sense it was fulfilled, as we learn from the early writers of the Christian Church.
E. You do not mean the Acts of the Apostles, do you?
M. That is the first, and earliest, and most important history which we have of the Apostolic Church ; being written by an inspired penman, St. Luke. But
we have other writings, which, though left us by men uninspired, are still to be received with reverence, as the works of holy and learned men, who, living in or near those early times, must be the best human authority for the history of them. All that we call 'History' depends, you know, upon the accounts of uninspired writers, some of whom were not by any means good men; and yet we believe them. then we ought to receive with respect the histories left us by the first Christian bishops and doctors, even though they were not inspired, as the Apostles and Evangelists certainly were. "The Acts of the Apostles, indeed contain only a small part of the history of a small part of the Apostles; and yet even there we see that the Gospel was very widely spread, and had taken root in the most important parts of the Roman Empire. As early as the reign of Nero (A.D. 65.) the Christians were grown so numerous at Rome as to alarm the government; the first general persecution was begun against them merely on this account; although it was pretended that they had set fire to the city. Clement, who was a fellow labourer with St. Paul, tells us that the Apostle preached both in the east and in the west; that he taught the whole world righteousness, and travelled as far as the utmost borders of the west. It appears also, from the writers of the history of the Church, that before the destruction of Jerusalem, the Gospel was not only preached in the lesser Asia, and Greece, and Italy; but that it spread as far northward, as Scythia; southward, as Ethiopia ; as far eastward, as Parthia and India; to the west, as far as Spain and Britain.”
E. Britain, Mamma! I thought the Romans brought it here.
M. But they were not the first to bring it. It seems very probable that it was preached in our island by St. Paul himself; at any rate, that it was planted in this spot so dear to us in the days of the Apostles, and that before the destruction of Jerusalem. But our conversation has already been longer than usual, and must come to an end now. Next Sunday I shall
hope to continue the same subject.
See Matt. xxiv. 3—22.
Mark xiii. 3—20.
Luke xxi. 7-23.
FIFTIETH SUNDAY EVENING.
JUDGMENT OF JERUSALEM (continued).
E. You told me last Sunday, Mamma, of the destruction of Jerusalem: but was it never built up again?
M. Not by the Jews, Edward: for the place, their "holy place," was "taken away" from them by the Romans; and their "nation" too was "taken away" by the same enraged conquerors, either by the sword or else by captivity. "They shall fall," said Christ, "by the edge of the sword," and the number of those who were thus taken away is almost incredible. Josephus has reckoned the number that fell by the sword in different places of Judea, during this dreadful war: and they amount altogether, besides many who could not be reckoned, to no less than one million, three