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The church of Antioch.
abounding in men eminent for their great learning and true taste.”
But however famous Antioch was for the things mentioned by Cicero, it became more remarkable in having the light of the glorious gospel bestowed upon it; for the success which the gospel had among its inhabitants, the fruit of which appeared in the erection of a numerous Christian church; and for its giving the name of CHRISTIAN' to the followers of Jesus Christ. Here Christianity flourished to such a degree, for many ages, that it obtained the appellation of Theopolis, or the city of God, and this church was considered as the first and chief of the Gentile churches.'
The gospel, indeed, had found its way into this great city previous to its being visited by Saul; for it appears from the inspired history that some of the teachers who had been driven from Jerusalem by the persecution which arose about Stephen, had reached Antioch, where they made known the glad tidings of salvation among the Grecians or Hellenistic Jews; and “the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned unto the Lord.”* When the report of these things reached Jerusalem, that church sent Barnabas to Antioch, who rejoiced at seeing the grace of God so illustriously dism played among them; and, by his own exhortations and discourses, he was eminently instrumental in promoting the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom among them! Hearing that Saul was at Tarsus, Barnabas went in questo of him, and having found him, he brought him also to Antioch, where they both continued a whole year labouring with much success in the work of the Lord. •
Caius Caligula, whose death has been already noticed, and which took place about this time, was succeeded in the empire by Claudius Cæsar, who, soon after his en
[CH. I. trance on the government, bestowed the kingdom of Judea on 'Herod Agrippa, grandson of Herod' the 'great (mentioned' Matt. ii.), and nephew to Herod the Tetrarch who put to death John the Baptist." Herod Agrippa experienced much of the vicissitude that usually accompanies the pursuit of ambition. He had incurred 'the displeasure of Tiberius, by whose order' he was put in chains and committed to prison. The account which Josephus gives us of this affair is as follows. Before Caius Caligula ascended the throne of the Cæsars, as Herod and he were one day riding together in their chariot, the former, who was anxious to ingratiate himself with the heir apparent to the throne, " wished to God that Tiberius was gone, and Caius emperor in his stead.”. Eutychus, who drove the Chariot, overheard the words, but concealed his knowledge of them at the moment, Some time afterwards, however, being accused by his master Herod of theft, he discovered the treason to Tiberius, who instantly had him arrested, and confined during the life of the latter. When Tiberius died, Caius not only liberated his old friend, but invited him to his palace, put a crown upon his head, and constituted him king of the tetrarchy of Philip, and bestowed on him a chain of gold, of the same weight as the iron one which he had worn during his imprisonment.*,
Herod was a professed zealot for the law of Moses and the peculiarities of Judaisın, and studied by every means in his power to ingratiate himself with the Jews. "He expended large sums in the defence and ornament of their city ; but it was now in his power to attempt a more acceptable service, by exerting his authority against the Christians; and the motives of vanity and popular ap; plause by which he was governed, prompted him to embrace the opportunity.' He began by apprehending the
* Josephus' Antiq. b. 18, ch. 6. 95. and Wars, b. 1. ch. 9. $ 4.
SECT. 111.] Herod kills James and imprisons Peter.
sect to a
apostle James, the son of Zebedee, and brother of John, whom he hastily put to death; and finding the Jews were highly pleased with this step, he caused Peter also to be apprehended and imprisoned, intending to have him exe. cuted after the Passover; a period when, by reason of the influx of
strangers from all parts to the city, he should have an opportunity of shewing his zeal against this new
to a greater number of spectators, James indeed had finished his course, and was
d was gone to receive the crown of righteousness from the hands of his divine master in the kingdom of God. But the work of Peter was not yet accomplished, and though marked out by Herod for a speedy sacrifice, he was still secure. So intent was Herod, however, upon his destruction, that he not only committed him to prison, but loaded him with two chains, and consigned him to the charge of sixteen soldiers, who were to watch him by turns, four at a ti
a time, two of them being chained to him, one on either side, and two placed as centinels, at the Jews still recollected how all the apostles had formerly escaped when put in prison, and perhaps they suspected the fidelity, of the guards ; nor is it unlikely that at their particular request,
all these precautions were taken in the case of Peter. We may realize something of the anxiety and concern which must have pervaded the church on this distressing, occasion. The
They had lost Stephen and one apostle; and the life of the great apostle of the cir
RADI:**** cumcision was in the utmost jeopardy:
prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for
107.1990 1989 190 m 2 him."
5.09r og pidni won si trdi!, How long it pleased God, in this instance, to exercise the faith and confidence of the church, does not clearly appear. It is thought by some,* that Peter was apprebended about the beginning of April, or during the days 9,19197044 years 911
See Benson's First Planting of Christianity, ch. 5. 96.
of unleavened bread, which was the beginning of the feast of the passover. That feast lasted eight days, and they date the transaction in the third year of the reign of Claudius. It was the usual practice of the Jews, during the festival, to indulge in mirth and jollity, and at the end to release the prisoners. On this occasion, however, they were anticipating the high satisfaction, of seeing, as soon as the paschal lamb was eaten and the festival quite finished, the foremost of this sect brought out and put to death. His enemies congratulated themselves in the thought that they had him secure. The next day was appointed by Herod for his being publicly executed. But the night before this was to take place, the Lord interposed and rescued him out of their hands. Peter, in all probability, knew the time they had appointed for his martyrdom; but he seems to have been in the enjoyment of a serene and tranquil mind, and not in the least alarmed about their machinations. He was sleeping very composedly between the two soldiers, chained by the arm to each of them, when the angel of the Lord came upon him, accompanied by an effulgent brightness, and smiting Peter on the side, raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly; .
and his chains. fell off from his hands. And the angel said, “ Gird thyself and bind on thy sandals; and he did so. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee and follow me, and he went out and followed him," apprehending that he saw a vision. The prison was in the suburbs of Jerusalem, and when they had passed the first and second watch, they came unto the great iron gatę which led towards the city. This opened to them of its own accord ; and the angel having escorted Peter through one street, and completely delivered him out of the hands of his enemies, he departed from him.
In the morning, Herod found himself disappointed of his prey! The guards were examined, but being unable
Impiety and death of Herod.
to give a satisfactory account of their prisoner, he commanded them to be put to death. It is not improbable that Herod might suspect a miraculous interposition in this instance; but to punish the guards as if they had been guilty of conniving at his escape, was the likeliest method to stop further inquiry, and prevent the people from suspecting any thing 'extraordinary in the affair.*
Herod did not long survive this event. He lived and died a monument of the instability of human greatness. He was much devoted to his Roman masters, and had a taste for their magnificence. This induced him to celebrate games and shows at Cæsarea in honour of the emperor; on which occasions he laboured to display the utmost of his grandeur. His pride was farther flattered by an embassy from Tyre and Sidon. Those cities had incurred his displeasure; but as they chiefly drew their subsistence from his dominions, they were compelled to supplicate peace, which, though they had highly offended him, they obtained by their interest with Blastus his chamberlain. The king appointed a day on which to receive their subnrission, when he appeared in the theatre with a splendour that dazzled the eyes of the spectators. He addressed himself to the ambassadors in a pompous oration, suited, we may suppose, to give them the highest idea both of his power and clemency. When he had ended, he heard his praises resound from every quarter ; --the multitude shouted, “ It is the voice of a god and not of a man." His vain heart was elated with this impious compliment, which, considering that Herod professed the knowledge of the true God, displayed an awful instance of pride and impiety. The angel of the Lord smote him with an irresistible though invisible stroke, because he gave not God the glory; and while surrounded with the fancied insignia of majesty, and in the midst
Acts xii, 1-19.