|« Prev||Acts||Next »|
 Acts i. 15. “The number of the names together were about one hundred and twenty.” Great respect seems to be shown to the number twelve in things pertaining to the church, as may be seen in the account of the new Jerusalem in Revelation, and the number of the sealed of every tribe were twelve thousand, and here the number of the church, when the Holy Ghost was poured out upon it, is one hundred and twenty; there were twenty-four elders round about the throne.
 Acts iv. 32,. &c. The reasons why the primitive Christians of the church of Jerusalem had all things common, seem to be these:
1. Great part of the members of this church were strangers or Hellenists, or Grecians, as here called. The first Christian church was set up in Jerusalem, the centre of the resort of the Jews from all nations, when they came up to their three great feasts; and therefore the christian church of Jerusalem, as it was the only christian church then in the world, was, as it were, the house for the reception and entertainment of the people of Christ, that came from all parts of the world, as we read that this church was constituted of Jews from every nation under heaven. But these strangers did not bring their estates with them, and yet it was very needful that they should mostly keep together in their new and infant state, and not disperse by returning into their several countries; it was fit therefore that the Hebrew Christians should entertain them, and give them of what they had; they all lived upon the estates of the Christians that properly belonged to Judea, and therefore it came to pass that there soon arose a complaint that the Grecians were neglected in the daily ministration; for the estates being originally the Hebrews’, they some of them began to grudge to bestow so freely of it on them as on themselves. The circumstances of this church being such, it was thought meet 795that the church of Jerusalem, which was the first church, and then the only Christian church, and a long time after as a mother to all other churches, should be as a common father’s house, where all the children from the utmost ends of the earth might be freely entertained, without money and without price: representing the manner of their spiritual entertainment in their Father’s house.
2. Many of them were to be continually employed as teachers, as the apostles, and the whole number of that first one hundred and twenty, on every one of whom the Holy Ghost was poured out in his extraordinary gifts, sitting on each of them in the appearance of cloven tongues of fire, to fit them and mark them out for teachers; and accordingly they all began to exercise their gifts in teaching, as appears by the beginning of the second chapter of Acts. And after this the same miraculous gifts were given to great numbers of others among them, to fit them also to be teachers, for it was agreeable to the circumstances the church was then in, a little flock in the midst of a dark, blind world, and agreeable to that design of God, of a swift propagation and dispersion of the gospel over great part of the world, that great numbers of the first Christians should be teachers; but those being constantly employed in this work, it was necessary that they should be maintained by the substance of others; and there being so many of them was another thing that made it needful that they should have all things common.
3. The state that this church was in, in the midst of an enemy’s country, liable to be sorely persecuted, and driven to and fro, made this requisite, on several accounts:
First. It was needful that their possessions should be turned into that which was portable, so that when persecuted in one city they might fly to another.
Secondly. Their being subject to such great and continual persecutions, made it needful that they should not be entangled in the world, or encumbered with worldly cares about their estates. This made it needful that they should do as a man that is going a journey, about to remove to some other country, sell what he has, and carry the effects with him. A man in his journey has no care but only to use what he carries with him, to lay out his money to support him from hand to mouth; or as a man that goes into the wars, he has no care about any thing but fighting, and receiving his food daily from a common stock.
Thirdly. This made them less liable to the rage of their persecutors. A people that are supported one by another, by what they have among them in common, are not so liable to be deprived of all support, as he that has nothing but a possession of his own to depend on; for when things are in common, if they took one, and took from him what he had about him, yet there remained others to help him. A portable estate, consisting in money, is also more easily concealed, and kept out or the way of persecutors, than a real estate.
 Acts xvii. 26, 27. “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him and find him:” i. e. God hath so ordered the state of the world of mankind, though scattered abroad upon the face of the earth, that provision should be made in providence at all times, that the nations of the world, if their heart had been well disposed to seek after the truth, might have had some means to have led them in their sincere and diligent inquiries to the knowledge of the true God, and his ways; partly by making them all of one blood, and partly by an adjustment of the particular places and limits of the habitation of the people that had the knowledge of the true religion, and might hold forth light to others, and to the Gentiles that had it not; and the different times, changes, and circumstances of the world of mankind, that the bounds of their habitations, and the state of the times, might be so adapted one with the other, that the Gentile world might always be under a capacity of receiving light from the Jews. The world had great advantage to obtain the knowledge of the true God, by their being all made of one blood; by this means the knowledge of the true religion was for some time kept up in the world by tradition, and there were soon great corruptions and apostacies crept in, and much darkness overwhelmed great part of the world; yet there was so much light remained till Moses’s time, that tradition, and the memory of things past, would have afforded means sufficient to an honest, sincere, and faithful inquirer to have come to the knowledge of the true religion; at least that, together with what there was here and there of revelation among those that still held the true religion, the bounds and limits of whose habitation was appointed and fixed to that end. And afterwards, even till Christ’s time, there remained by tradition many scraps of truth among the heathen, that would greatly have served with well-disposed inquirers, as a clue in their search after truth.
About Moses’s time, when truth, that had been upheld by tradition, was very much lost, and former things became much out of sight by being far off, and the professors of the true religion, except in the posterity of Jacob, very much ceased in the world, God took care that there might be something new, which should be very public, and of great fame, and much taken notice of abroad in the world, that might be sufficient to lead sincere inquirers to the true God; and those were the great things God wrought in Egypt, and at the Red sea, and in the wilderness, for the children of Israel.
These things were very publicly wrought. Egypt, where many of them were wrought, was one of the most noted heathen nations in the world; and we often read how that those great miracles that God wrought were actually taken notice of by the heathen nations round about; and probably most, if not all the heathen nations, heard of them. See Exod. ix. 16. “And in very deed, for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.” For then the bounds of their habitations were so appointed that they did not live near so much dispersed abroad as afterwards they did; see Gen. xli. 56, 57. They were probably almost all within hearing of these great things, which it is likely became yet more public, and were carried further abroad in the world, together with other great things that God did in Canaan when the sun stood still, (which was a miracle done in the presence of the whole world,) and Joshua had conquered that land, and multitudes of the inhabitants were driven out, and went some to Africa, to Carthage, and other parts of Africa, and to the isles of the sea, to many parts of Europe as well as Asia, to carry the tidings of those things, and to interpret the miracle of the sun’s standing still. So that, in a manner, the whole world heard of these great things. See Deut. ii. 25. “This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble and be in anguish because of thee.” And the memory of these things was kept up a great while among the nations, as appears by the accounts we have of the occasional mention which the neighbouring nations from time to time make of them, till about David’s time, when the memory of those things began to be lost among them. And then God did new things to make his people Israel, who had the true religion, taken notice of among the heathen, viz. his subduing all the nations from the Euphrates to Egypt under David, and setting Israel at the head of the greatest empire in the world, in his days, and the days of his son Solomon. This there is respect to in many such passages in the Psalms, as that Psal. xcviii. 2. though there be also a prophetic respect to what should be in gospel days: and the great wisdom and prosperity of Solomon, and the great things that were done by him, the fame of which filled the world to the utmost bounds of it, though by that time God had enlarged the bounds of their habitation. That one design of Providence in these things was, that the heathen nations might hear the fame of the God of Israel, and so have opportunity to come to the knowledge of him, is confirmed by 1 Kings viii. 41, 42, 43. The memory of these things kept up the fame of that nation and of their God for several hundred years. They were remembered until the Jews were carried captive into Babylon, as appears by the mention that the enemies of the Jews make of them in their letter to Artaxerxes, and by Artaxerxes’s answer, in the 4th chapter of Ezra. But then when the memory of these things was decaying, and the 796bounds of the habitation of the heathen nations was enlarged, God altered the place of the habitation of his people, and carried them to Babylon, the mistress of the world, where some of them, especially Daniel and his three companions, raised the fame of the true God, and caused it to go from thence through the world by the great things he wrought by and for them, and also by what he wrought for Daniel in Persia. After this, the appointed bounds of the Jews’ habitation were not the limits of any one land, but they were dispersed all over the world, as they were very much in Esther’s time, when they were a people very famous through the world by what was done respecting them in her time, and afterwards were much more dispersed abroad in the world, and so remained till Christ’s time; so that the heathen world had opportunity by them to have come to the knowledge of the true God.
God appointed the particular place of the habitation of the Jews to be as it were in the midst of the earth, between Asia, Africa, and Europe; and in the great contests there were between the great empires of the world, they were always in the way; and before the days of the gospel, the bounds of the world of mankind seem not to have been near so extensive as since; and particularly it is probable that America has been wholly peopled since. See Isa. xlv. 19. Ezek. v. 5.
|« Prev||Acts||Next »|