ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
We have with an abundant satisfaction seen the foundation of our holy religion laid in the history of our blessed Saviour, its great Author, which was related and left upon record by four several inspired writers, who all agree in this sacred truth, and the incontestable proofs of it. That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Upon this rock the christian church is built; and how it began to be built upon this rock, comes next to be related in this book which we have now before us. Of this we have the testimony only of one witness; for the matters of fact concerning Christ, were much more necessary to be fully related and attested than those concerning the apostles. Had Infinite Wisdom seen fit, we might have had as many books of the Acts of the Apostles as we have Gospels, nay, as we might have had Gospels; but, for fear of overburthening the world, (John 21. 25.) we have sufficient to answer the end, if we will but make use of it.
The history of this book (which was always received as a part of the sacred canon) may be considered,
I. As looking back to the preceding gospels, giving light to them, and greatly assisting our faith in them. The promises there made, we here find made good; particularly the great promise of the descent of the Holy Ghost, and his wonderful operations, both on the apostles, (whom here in a few days we find quite other men than what the gospels left them; no longer weak-headed and weak-hearted, but able to say that which then they were not able to bear, (John 16. 12.) and bold as lions to face those hardships which then as lambs they trembled at the thought of,) and also with the apostles, making the word mighty to the pulling down of Satan's strong holds, which had been before comparatively preached in vain. The commission there granted to the apostles we here find executed, and the powers there lodged in them exerted in miracles wrought on the bodies of people—miracles of mercy, restoring sick bodies to health, and dead bodies to life—miracles of judgment, striking rebels blind or dead; and much greater miracles wrought on the minds of people, in conferring spiritual gifts upon them, both of understanding and utterance; and this in pursuance of Christ's purposes, and in performance of his promises, which we had in the gospels. The proofs of Christ's resurrection, which the gospels closed with, are here abundantly corroborated, not only by the constant and undaunted testimony of those that conversed with him after he rose, (who had all deserted him, and one of them denied him, and would not otherwise have been rallied again but by his resurrection, but must have been irretrievably dispersed, and yet by that were enabled to own him more resolutely than ever, in defiance of bonds and deaths,) but by the working of the Spirit with that testimony for the conversion of multitudes to the faith of Christ, according to the word of Christ, that his resurrection, the sign of the prophet Jonas, which was reserved to the last should be the most convincing proof of his divine mission. Christ had told his disciples that they should be his witnesses, and this book brings them in witnessing for him; that they should be fishers of men, and here we have them enclosing multitudes in the gospel-net; that they should be the lights of the world, and here we have the world enlightened by them; but that day-spring from on high which we there discerned in the first appearing of, we here find shining more and more. The corn of wheat, which there fell to the ground, here springs up and bears much fruit; the grain of mustard-seed there is here a great tree; and the kingdom of heaven, which was then at hand, is here set up. Christ's predictions of the virulent persecutions which the preachers of his gospel should be afflicted with (though one could not have imagined that a doctrine so well worthy of all acceptation should meet with so much opposition) we here find abundantly fulfilled, and also the assurances he gave them of extraordinary supports and comforts under their sufferings. Thus, as the latter part of the history of the Old Testament verifies the promises made to the fathers in the former part, (as appears by that famous and solemn acknowledgment of Solomon's, which runs like a receipt in full, 1 Kings 8. 56. There has not failed one word of all his good promise which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant,) so the latter part of the history of the New Testament exactly answers to the word of Christ in the former part of it: and thus they mutually confirm and illustrate each other.
II. As looking forward to the following epistles, which are an explication of the gospels, which open the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection, the history whereof we had in the gospels. This book introduces them, and is a key to them, as the history of David is to David's psalms. We are members of the christian church, that tabernacle of God among men, and it is our honour and privilege that we are so. Now this book gives us an account of the framing and rearing of that tabernacle. The four gospels shewed us how the foundation of that house was laid; this shews us how the superstructure began to be raised. 1. Among the Jews and Samaritans, which we have an account of in the former part