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"labour, working with our own hands."-Impoftor's would not adhere to a religion attended with fuch difficulties; enthusiasts would not endeavour to exhibit an example of active, humble industry, even in the midst of the most severe perfecutions, and most important religious avocations. I conclude, that the conduct, as well as the words of the apostles, be speak truth and foberness.
The conduct of the apostles in the regulation of the church, proves them to have been exempt from enthufiafm.
THE fame fobriety of mind which displayed itself in the perfonal conduct of the apoftles, was equally confpicuous in the regulation of the Chriftian church, over which they prefided. In this view I would call the attention of my reader to a tranfaction which took place before they entered on their public ministry, and which I notice, because it seems equally inconfiftent with impofture and enthusiasm.-Peter collects the difciples, in number one hundred and twenty, and propofes to fupply the place of the fallen
Judas. Now was this a measure which impoftors would adopt? If a monopoly of power or influence was defigned, would the men who poffeffed this monopoly propose or confent, without any apparent neceffity, to admit an obfcure individual to the fame rank, amongst the new converts, which they themfelves enjoyed?-no, certainly. But confider the qualifications required in this fubftitute, and judge whether they are fuch as enthusiasts would naturally have felected. Did they look for that individual amongst the converts moft diftinguished for warm zeal, spiritual extacies, or extravagant aufterity?— Far otherwife, no fuch ideas feem to have once entered into the imagination of the propofer. He looked for thofe qualities which would give the new apoftle's teftimony the greatest weight in the judgment of fober 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 fhould atteft: "Of these
men, fays St. Peter, which have companied with 6C us all the time that the Lord Jefus went in and ❝out among us, beginning from the baptifm of John "until that fame day that he was taken up from us, "muft one be ordained to be a witness with us of
* Vid. Herman Piftorius's Notes to Hartley, vol. iii. p. 610, London 1791, for this part of this remark.
b Acts i. 21.
The manner of the election, while it difplays 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 fober and regular as it was pious and fincere. They appointed two perfons, and they prayed and faid, "Thou Lord, who knowest the "hearts of all men, fhew whether of thefe two thou "haft chofen, that he may take part of this ministry "and apostleship from which Judas by tranfgreffion "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 apoftate Judas is here mentioned, feems as inconfiftent with the violence of enthusiasm, as the qualification fought for in his fubftitute, and the mode of the felection. All these circumstances bespeak truth and piety; all are inconfiftent with fraud or fanaticism.
Another tranfaction of fomewhat a fimilar nature, feems equally to prove that the apostles were devoid of every interested view which impoftors might entertain, and directed by prudence and discretion in the conduct of their religious concerns, which enthufiafts scarcely ever observe.
•. Acts i. 24.
The first converts felt their minds impreffed by the miracles they beheld with fo deep a sense of the importance of religion, above every temporal concern, that "as many as were poffeffors of lands or houses "fold them, and brought the prices of the things "that were fold, and laid them down at the apostles'
feet, and diftribution was made to every man (in "the Chriftian fociety) according as he had need.” Now here was an occafion which interested men would have improved to their own advantage, by urging the continuance of this community of goods as a duty, and cautioufly referving to themselves the management of the fund it fupplied, as the most valuable appendage of their miniftry; on the other hand, enthusiasts would have probably encouraged this neglect of all temporal concerns with avidity as fuited to the fervor of religious zeal, which in their eyes would form the higheft merit. Not fo the apoftles of this community of goods they took no advantage; they distributed to each as they had need; they referved to themselves, if any thing, certainly no more than supplied the present neceffaries of life, as appears from their fubfequent and continued poverty; and even prefent neceffaries they frequently procured by their own labour. And what is equally ftriking, the whole New Teftament does not contain a fingle paffage, representing this community of goods as a duty which Christianity enjoins :-it was an il
Acts iv. 34, 35.
luftrious act of liberality, fuited 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 fupported by others, except fuch as are incapable of providing for themfelves, and deftitute of those relatives from whom nature dictates they should obtain relief. In defcribing the rules by which the diftribution of Chriftian beneficence should be regulated, he directs" if any widow have chil"dren or nephews, let them learn firft to pew 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 houfe, he hath denied the faith, and is worse "than an infidel." How remote is this from the language of fanaticifm? However, on this fubject. it is neceffary farther to obferve, that the fingular and unparalleled liberality of the firft Chriftians, undoubtedly placed the apostles in a trying and fufpicious fituation; and the manner in which they acted, indicates prudence and difcretion, as ftrongly as it difplays piety and zeal.
"When the number of the difciples was multiplied, (fays the historian) there arose a murmuring of the "Grecians against the Hebrews, because their wi
Timothy v. 4th and 8th verfes.
f Acts vi. I.