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They were added to the Christian church of Israel, as the proselytes of old were to the Mosaic church of Israel; and so were as it were only grafted on the stock of Abraham, and were not a distinct tree; for they are all still the seed of Abraham and Israel; as Ruth the Moabitess, and Uriah the Hittite, and other proselytes of old, were the same people, and ranked as the seed of Israel.
So the Christian church at first began at Jerusalem, and from thence was propagated to all nations: So that this church of Jerusalem was the church that was as it were the mother of all other churches in the world; agreeable to the prophecy, Isaiah ii. 5, 4. "Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; and he shall judge among the nations, and rebuke many people." So that the whole church of God is still God's Jerusalem; they are his spiritual Jerusalem, and are as it were only added to the church, which was begun in the literal Jerusalem.
After this, we read of many thousands of Jews that believ ed in Jerusalem, Acts xxi. 20. And so we read of multitudes of Jews who were converted in other cities of Judea; and not only so, but even in other parts of the world. For wherever the apostles went, if there were any Jews there, their manner was first to go into the synagogues of the Jews, and preach the gospel to them, and many in one place and another believed; as in Damascus and Antioch, and many other places that we read of in the Acts of the Apostles.
In this pouring out of the spirit, which began at the Pentecost following Christ's ascension, began that first great dispensation which is called Christ's coming in his kingdom.— Christ's coming thus in a spiritual manner for the glorious setting up of his kingdom in the world, is represented by Christ himself as his coming down from heaven, whither he had ascended, John xiv. 18. There Christ having been speaking of his ascension says, "I will not leave you comfortless; I will come unto you," speaking of his coming by the coming of the comforter, the spirit of truth. And, "Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away and come again unto you." And thus the apostles began to
see the kingdom of heaven come with power, as he promised they should, Mark ix. 1.
(2) What is next to be observed is the success of the gospel among the Samaritans. After the success of the gospel had been so gloriously begun among the proper Jews, the spirit of God was next wonderfully poured out on the Samaritans, who were not Jews by nation, but the posterity of those whom the king of Assyria removed from different parts of his dominions, and settled in the land that was inhabited by the ten tribes whom he carried captive. But yet they had received the five books of Moses, and practised most of the rites of the law of Moses, and so were a sort of mongrel Jews. We do not find them reckoned as Gentiles in the New Testament: For the calling of the Gentiles is spoken of as a new thing after this, beginning with the conversion of Cornelius. But yet it was an instance of making that a people that were no people: For they had corrupted the religion which Moses commanded, and did not go up to Jerusalem to worship, but had another temple of their own in mount Gerizzim; which is the mountain of which the woman of Samaria speaks, when she says, "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain." Christ there does not approve of their separation from the Jews; but tells the woman of Samaria, that they worshipped they knew not what, and that salvation is of the Jews. But now salvation is brought from the Jews to them by the preaching of Philip, (excepting that before Christ had some success among them) with whose preaching there was a glorious pouring out of the spirit of God in the city of Samaria; where we are told that "the people believed Philip, preaching the things concerning the kingdom of Christ, and were baptized, both men and women; and that there was great joy in that city." Acts viii. 8-12.
Thus Christ had a glorious harvest in Samaria; which is what Christ seems to have had respect to, in what he said to his disciples at Jacob's well, three or four years before, on occasion of the people of Samaria's appearing at a distance in the fields coming to the place where Christ was, at the insti
gation of the woman of Samaria. On that occasion he bids his disciples lift up their eyes to the fields, for that they were white to the harvest, John iv. 35, 36. The disposition which the people of Samaria showed towards Christ and his gospel, showed that they were ripe for the harvest. But now the harvest is come by Philip's preaching. There used to be a most bitter enmity between the Jews and Samaritans ; but now, by their conversion, the Christian Jews and Samaritans are all happily united; for in Christ Jesus is neither Jew nor Samaritan, but Christ is all in all. This was a glorious instance of the wolf's dwelling with the lamb, and the leopard's lying down with the kid.
(3) The next thing to be observed is the success there was of the gospel in calling the Gentiles. This was a great and glorious dispensation of divine providence, much spoken of in the prophecies of the Old Testament, and spoken of by the apostles, time after time, as a most glorious event of Christ's redemption. This was begun in the conversion of Cornelius and his family, greatly to the admiration of Peter, who was used as the instrument of it, and of those who were with him, and of those who were informed of it; as you may see, Acts x. & xi. And the next instance of it that we have any account of, was in the conversion of great numbers of Gentiles in Cyprus, and Cyrene, and Antioch, by the disciples that were scattered abroad by the persecution which arose about Stephen, as we have an account in Acts xi. 19, 20, 21. And presently upon this the disciples began to be called Christians first at Antioch, verse 26.
And after this, vast multitudes of Gentiles were converted in many different parts of the world, chiefly by the ministry of the Apostle Paul, a glorious pouring out of the Spirit accompanying his preaching in one place and another. Multitudes flocked into the church of Christ in a great number of cities where the Apostle came. So the number of the members of the Christian church that were Gentiles, soon far exceeded the number of its Jewish members; yea so, that in less than ten years time after Paul was sent forth from Antioch to preach to the Gentiles, it was said of him and his companions,
that they had turned the world upside down: Acts xvii. 6. "These, that have turned the world upside down are come hither also." But the most remarkable pouring out of the Spirit in a particular city that we have any account of in the New Testament, seems to be that in the city of Ephesus, which was a very great city. Of this we have an account in Acts xix. There was also a very extraordinary ingathering of souls at Corinth, one of the greatest cities in all Greece. And after this many were converted in Rome, the chief city of all the world; and the gospel was propagated into all parts of the Roman empire. Thus the gospel sun, which had lately risen on the Jews, now rose upon, and began to enlighten ́ the Heathen world, after they had continued in gross Heathenish darkness for so many ages.
This was a great thing, and a new thing, such as never had been before. All nations but the Jews, and a few who had at one time and another joined with them, had been rejected from about Moses's time. The Gentile world had been covered over with the thick darkness of idolatry: But now, at the joyful glorious sound of the gospel, they began in all parts to forsake their old idols, and to abhor them, and to cast them to the moles and to the bats, and to learn to worship the true God, and to trust in his Son Jesus Christ; and God owned them for his people: Those who had so long been afar off, were made nigh by the blood of Christ. Men were changed from being Heathenish and brutish, to be the children of God; were called out of Satan's kingdom of darkness, and brought into God's marvellous light; and in almost all countries throughout the known world were assemblies of the people of God; joyful praises were sung to the true God, and Jesus Christ the glorious Redeemer. Now that great building which God began soon after the fall of man, rises gloriously, not in the same manner that it had done in former ages, but in quite a new manner; now Daniel's prophecies concerning the last kingdom, which should succeed the four Heathenish monarchies, begins to be fulfilled; now the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, began to smite the image on its feet, and to break it in pieces, and to grow great, and to make
great advances towards filling the earth; and now God gathers together the elect from the four winds of heaven, by the preaching of the apostles and other ministers, the angels of the Christian church sent forth with the great sound of the gospel trumpet, before the destruction of Jerusalem, agreeable to what Christ foretold, Matth. xxiv. 31.
This was the success of Christ's purchase during this first period of the Christian church, which terminated in the destruction of Jerusalem.
2. I would proceed now, in the second place, to take notice of the opposition which was made to this success of Christ's purchase by the enemies of it..........Satan, who lately was so ready to triumph and exult, as though he had gained the victory in putting Christ to death, now finding himself fallen into the pit which he had digged, and finding his kingdom falling so fast, and seeing Christ's kingdom make such amazing progress, such as never had been before, we may conclude he was filled with the greatest confusion and astonishment, and hell seemed to be effectually alarmed by it to make the most violent opposition against it. And, first, the devil stirred up the Jews, who had before crucified Christ, to persecute the church For it is observable, that the persecution which the church suffered during this period, was mostly from the Jews. Thus we read in the Acts, when, at Jerusalem, the Holy Ghost was poured out at Pentecost, how the Jews mocked, and said, “These men are full of new wine;" and how the scribes and Pharisees, and the captain of the temple, were alarmed, and bestirred themselves to oppose and persecute the apostles, and first apprehended and threatened them, and afterwards imprisoned and beat them; and breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, they stoned Stephen in a tumultuous rage; and were not content to persecute those that they could find in Judea, but sent abroad to Damascus and other places, to persecute all that they could find every where. Herod, who was chief among them, stretched forth his hands to vex the church, and killed James with the sword, and proceeded to take Peter also, and cast him into prison.