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Horæ Apostolicæ


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Posted 19 July 2013 - 04:18 PM

CONCLUSION.

 

The chief object of the present work has been to complete the argument drawn from the undesigned coincidences of its separate parts, to establish the authenticity and veracity of the writings of the New Testament. Some parts of this argument, indeed, with reference to the gospels, cannot be presented in this fragmentary and independent form, and require a distinct line of investigation to make their force and reality apparent. But enough, and more than enough, has been advanced, to prove the authenticity of St. Paul’s epistles, the faithfulness and veracity of the book of Acts, and the truth of the main outlines of the gospel history. It will not be natural to close this inquiry without some practical application of the mo­mentous conclusions which it has disclosed.

 

What are the facts established by the evidence of the letters alone? That St. Paul, who before was a blasphemer and a persecutor, was arrested in his wicked course by a vision of the Lord Jesus appearing to him from heaven; that he was commissioned by him to be an apostle and teacher of the Gentiles; that he exercised and conveyed miraculous gifts in virtue of the power thus entrusted to him by his risen Lord; that more than three hundred brethren were alive when he wrote, who had seen Jesus after his resurrection; that this great fact was proclaimed by all the twelve apostles, and received with undoubting confidence by ten thousands of disciples, in the face of every temptation to deny and dis­believe it; that it was believed by them to be the fulfilment of many prophecies in the Old Testament, and attested by all the miraculous gifts of the apostles and evangelists; that in consequence of their double testimony, within thirty-six years from the public execution of Jesus as a malefactor, churches were planted in Jerusalem, Samaria, Lydda, Joppa, Cæsarea Damascus, Ptolemais, Tyre, the two Antiochs, Syria and Cilicia, Pisidia and Pamphylia, Galatia and Phrygia, in Troas, Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea and Corinth, in Cyprus and Crete, in Illyricum and Dalmatia, and in Home itself, the metropolis of the civilized world. All these churches, brought to the faith by the preaching of the apostles, and the moral and miraculous evidence of the message, confessed, in the face of obloquy and bitter persecution, that Jesus of Nazareth, whom the Jews had publicly crucified, was the only begotten Son of God, come down from heaven to be the Saviour of the world. Within a few weeks after his death, in the very city where it occurred, the apostles began to proclaim his resur­rection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven, confirming their statement by a present exercise of supernatural powers, and with such convincing evidence that thousands of converts, under the very eye of the Jewish rulers, and in the face of their strenuous opposition, risked their fortunes and their lives by enrolling themselves as disciples and servants of the once despised Nazarene. The Gospels, the book of Acts, and the Epistles, by a mutual attestation, and a harmony too deep to be artificial or collusive, place these facts beyond dispute with every ingenuous and reasonable mind.

 

From these same facts it results evidently that Christianity, in its great essential outlines, is true, and that these writings contain the record of a Divine revelation. God, who had spoken before to the fathers by the prophets, has renewed and enlarged his message, and has spoken to us by his Son, the brightness of His own glory, and the express image of His person, who is now seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high. It becomes every one, therefore, to inquire with deep reverence, What has the Lord spoken? What is the word of salvation which the Lord of glory has himself brought to sinners, confirming its truth by “signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?”



#182 Resource Manager

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Posted 19 July 2013 - 04:19 PM

This inquiry into the nature of the gospel is still more urgent and imperative, when we reflect on a further truth, established in these writings, that the Lord, with his parting voice, commanded the message to be sent to all nations of the earth, and pronounced a blessing on those who should receive it, and a solemn curse on those who should reject and disobey it. “Thus it is written,” he said to them, “and thus it behoved the Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” A message thus enforced by the lips of Him who is perfect in wisdom, must be of unspeakable moment to every child of man on the face of the earth. Wherever it is proclaimed, the first of all duties is to learn its nature, and the evidence on which it rests, and then to embrace with the whole heart the will of God which it enforces, and the promises which it reveals.

 

What, then, is the nature of the Divine message, so won­derfully attested by signs and miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, by the unwearied labours of the apostles, by the holy, happy deaths of the first martyrs, and by the holy, happy lives of countless believers, in those days When the church con­tinued still in its first love? Surely it is something more and higher than a republication of social morality, and a re-assertion of the truth, so instinctive to the human spirit amidst the lowest degradation, that the whole man does not die, and that the soul survives the dissolution of its clay tabernacle. The mere certainty of a prolonged existence after death is far, very far short of the inspired declaration that Jesus Christ “hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Let us endeavour to gain, from the sacred writings of the apostles, a juster view of the Christian revelation under these main aspects, the con­dition of men, the person of the Redeemer, his precepts and example, his atoning death, the gift of the Spirit, and the promise of life eternal.

 

The first main feature of the gospel proclaimed by the apostles, is its clear and full proclamation of the fallen state of man, and the moral guilt and corruption of all mankind. By this first truth it is broadly distinguished at once from every form of heathen superstition, and all the varieties of mere human philosophy. Man, sunk and degraded by sin, can form no just measure of his own degradation. His pride, indeed, may often revolt against the conditions of his animal life, and against the grosser forms of sensual intemperance and folly; but the mainspring, the love of God and holiness, is wanting in his heart, or very imperfectly restored; and hence morality itself degenerates, when derived merely from a human fountain. The retrospective analysis of conscience may prove, indeed, that every man falls short of the true standard of duty, but will never disclose the true amount of the awful defi­ciency. In the schemes of superstition, where priests make a profit of working upon terrified consciences, the wound may, perhaps, be probed deeper than in the systems of mere philo­sophers. But the moral code of superstition is only a new, and sometimes the darkest form, of the very evil it pretends to expose and remedy. Everywhere, and in all ages, it puts the shadow for the substance, and a worship of outward forms and ceremonies, a mere lip service, for living holiness of heart, and the allegiance of the creature to God, the Creator and Benefactor, in spirit and in truth.  Too often the evil is deeper still. Lust and cruelty are canonized in the name of religion, and the name of false gods, or of the true God himself, is pleaded in behalf of foul deeds of impurity, or hateful acts of imhumanity, from which even the natural conscience, when not perverted by superstition, recoils with horror. And thus, while systems of refined philosophy, and the more graceful forms of false religion, heal slightly the hurt of the fallen heart, these darker and baser systems of idol-worship and cruel bigotry pour vitriol into its bleeding and putrifying wounds.



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Posted 19 July 2013 - 04:19 PM

Here, then, is the first main contrast of the gospel of Christ. Its voice, though tender and compassionate, is solemn and severe, like the countenance of the archangel who an­nounced to Adam his expulsion from Paradise. It speaks of pity for the sinner, but does not heal his wound slightly, or attempt to disguise from him the greatness of his fall. It does not lower the claims of holiness to meet the depraved habits of the soul, nor pretend that evil is a mere harmless accident, or necessary result of our compounded form of being. It searches out the secret sins of the heart. It proclaims the alienation of men from true holiness, and from the life of God, through the ignorance and blindness of their hearts. It tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” that death is “the wages of sin,” and all forms of human sorrow only instalments of its just and fitting penalty. It announces, in brief language, the double truth, so harsh and ungrateful to the ears of a fallen race. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die;” and “God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.” To creatures thus fallen, a bare reve­lation, however fully confirmed, of a prolonged existence after death, to which some would debase the gospel, would be only a mockery of their real wants. It would be only a message of fear and sorrow, announcing to them “a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversary,” instead of being, as its name implies,” glad tidings of great joy.”

 

The next main feature of the gospel message relates to the person and glory of the promised Redeemer. The greatness of the ruin which it proclaims implies the need for a great and mighty deliverance. A redemption is needed, co-extensive in its power of application with the evil which it has to remedy, a cure for the world-wide sins and sorrows of the whole race of mankind. No scheme of philosophy, however subtle and elegant, no power of human genius, however profound, are equal, or could possibly be equal, to this momentous task. For long ages the promise of a deliverance was given, but its exact nature, and the person by whom it was to be procured, were veiled in types and shadowy emblems from the clear vision of the holiest men.    They saw it afar off, but dimly, and as by moonlight, until the appointed season, when the true Day-star was to arise.   Then, at length, the types of the law, the scattered predictions of the prophets, the instincts of human desire, in the prayer of Solomon, “Will God in very deed dwell with men?” the necessities of a ruin so vast, the requirements of infinite justice, the promptings of unfathom­able love, all converged upon a truth too wonderful to be received on lighter evidence, too glorious and sublime, too precious and holy, to be rejected without fearful guilt, where such evidence has been given; that the only begotten Son of the Father, by whom the worlds were made—the Word who was with the Father from the beginning—the brightness of His glory, who upholdeth all things by the word of his power,— has himself been made flesh, and tabernacled among us. To this glorious and wonderful fact all the apostles bear witness with consenting voice. Though they had eaten and drunk in his presence—seen him in his human weakness, when weary and thirsty, homeless and despised, bowed to the earth with agony, or crowned with thorns and nailed to the cross—their nearness of communion with Jesus of Nazareth in the days of his flesh,  only deepened their conviction of his unrivalled majesty, which beamed forth amidst his deepest humiliation of love.   “We beheld,” they tell us, “his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” “We have seen, and do testify, that the Father hath sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world.”   “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”



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Posted 19 July 2013 - 04:20 PM

This glory of Christ, as the Son of God, shines out in every part of the New Testament and may be called the essence of the Christian revelation. Wherever this truth is lost or obscured, the very nature of the gospel has passed away. It is the condescending love of the Saviour, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, which forms at once the foundation of all Christian hope, and the mainspring of all Christian obedience. So powerful is its operation, where it is really credited, and not in words only, that one apostle lays down the maxim with Divine authority, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” By the view of a redemption so passing wonderful, the soul is raised from the love of sin into adoring fellowship with the Creator, and communion with His pure and uncreated goodness. How can we believe the fact of a gift so unspeakable, and not be filled with deepest gratitude for such a mysterious and un­fathomable love? And hence the volume which opens with the declaration, “His name shall be called Emmanuel, God with us;” closes with a similar statement, twice repeated by the lips of the exalted Saviour— “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright and morning Star.” The next main feature of the gospel consists in the Divine morality and holy example of the Lord Jesus. Morality, it is true, was not the sole or highest object of his mission, if the term be used in its ordinary meaning, to denote the out­ward rules of right conduct between man and man. Yet to purify and elevate the standard of duty, to clear the law of God from false glosses, from Pharisaic additions and Sadducean corruptions, that reduced it to a mere bundle of ceremonial ordinances, was one main purpose of the mission of the Son of God. It was needful to elevate and arouse the conscience, before the mercy of God could be duly prized, or the Divine atonement welcomed by a guilty race. And hence the New Testament is marked throughout by the purest and highest exhibitions of moral truth. All outward actions are traced inward and upward to the fountains of the heart, and all obe­dience is declared to be worthless where the heart itself is not filled with the love of God and man. The two great com­mandments are singled out from all the others, in their Divine simplicity, and are unfolded into an immense variety of holy precepts, which all bespeak a Divine origin, by their union of deep, living earnestness, with moral and spiritual elevation of tone. “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteous­ness: for they shall be filled.”   “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.” “Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted,” “for­bearing one another, and forgiving one another, even as Christ forgave you so also do ye.” “Let love be without dissimula­tion. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Such are a few of the bright gems in this multitude of holy precepts, which ennoble and glorify the Christian revela­tion, and mark the message as truly unearthly and Divine.

 

But the morality of the gospel does not reside in mere precepts alone. Here, and here only, an elevated moral standard is enforced by a living example of sinless obedience. In the life of the Lord Jesus all the varied forms of moral goodness meet together, and are harmonized into their perfect union—purity and gentleness; severity against sin, and grace to the sinner; zeal for the glory of God, and tender love towards mankind; fervour and calmness; condescension and dignity; activity of outward labour, and habits of heavenly contemplation. The precepts of our Lord, when read by the light of his own example, thus acquire a moral power and a hold on the conscience, which precepts alone, however pure and excellent, could never secure. Amidst all the variable standards of worldly morality, and the darkening power of example in a world of sin, here is one bright vision of perfect goodness, to awaken the desire, and revive the hopes, of every fallen spirit, that has begun, however dimly and irresolutely, to seek after God.



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Posted 19 July 2013 - 04:20 PM

Even this union of a high morality with a spotless example, however unrivalled by all false religions or human systems, is not the main excellence of the Christian revelation. It has another character, exclusively its own. In the death of the Lord Jesus it sets before the sinner a full provision for the removal of all his guilt, a way of complete and lasting recon­ciliation with the God of holiness. The atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God is at once the fulfilment of all the numerous types of the Jewish law, and the Divine response to the deepest craving, the sorest and darkest doubt of the sinner’s burdened heart. “How shall men be just with God?” has been the cry of the awakened conscience from the earliest times; and as soon as thought and reflection have been awakened, the inquiry has given birth to another, still deeper, and equally hard to solve, “How shall God be just towards man, and still the guilty be saved from perishing in hopeless condemnation?” The gospel alone solves the mystery; not indeed in a way which flatters the pride of the intellect, for to the intellect it remains a mystery still, but in a way that frees the conscience from its burden, and fills the heart with love; while the spiritual reason sees, though dimly, the equity and wisdom of the new economy of grace. And this is the substance of the message, that “all we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid upon HIM,” even on Jesus, his own beloved Son, “the iniquity of us all;” that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them;” and that “He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” In the punishment of the Surety and Substitute we may thus read the Divine equity and holiness; in the double transfer of sin to the Saviour, and of grace to the sinner, the Divine sovereignty and love. And thus, in the words of the apostle, God is just, while justifying him that believeth in Jesus; while the Psalmist predicts the same blessing in a more vivid, though less definite utterance of joyful anticipation. “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteous­ness shall look down from heaven.”

 

It is this free and full atonement for the sins of the guilty, revealed in the gospel, which renders it indeed glad tidings of great joy to every race of mankind. In the words of an early writer (which prove the deep hold of this truth on the hearts of the first Christians), “He gave his own Son a ransom for us, the holy for the lawless, the harmless for the wicked, the just for the unjust, the uncorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal. For what else could cover our sins besides his righteousness? In whom could we, the lawless and unholy, be justified, save by the Son of God alone? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable wisdom! O un­expected benefits, that the sin of many should be hidden by one righteous, and the righteousness of one justify many sinners! Having now, therefore, revealed the Saviour, who is able  to save even what seemed incapable of salvation, He sought that we should trust in his goodness, account him our nourisher, father, teacher, counsellor, physician, wisdom, light, honour, glory, strength, and life, and not be anxious con­cerning food and raiment.”



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Posted 19 July 2013 - 04:21 PM

But the gospel, while it makes provision for the forgiveness of all past sin, provides equally for the recovery of inward holiness. The same Lord, who is revealed as the Lamb of God, or an atoning sacrifice for the sin of the whole world, is also revealed as the True Vine, the Living Bread, or the source of inward and spiritual nourishment and healing to the souls of men. Strengthened by his grace, the fishermen of Galilee have become examples of holiness, and teachers of wisdom, beyond all the great and mighty of the world, while blaspheming persecutors have been changed into preachers of righteousness and patterns of self-sacrificing love. The same Spirit, who wrought these triumphs in their hearts and lives, through the name of Christ, is promised to every one who believes the gospel, in all ages and countries of the world. And every age, and almost every country, has borne repeated witness to the truth of the promise. From the first centuries to the present hour, from the tropical regions to the snows of Greenland, the trophies of the doctrine of the cross have been the same.

 

The wretch that once sang wildly, danced and laughed,

And sucked in dizzy madness with his draught,

Has wept a silent flood, reversed his ways,

Is sober, meek, benevolent, and prays;

Feeds sparingly, communicates his store,

Abhors the craft he boasted of before;

And he that stole hath learned to steal no more.

 

The history of modern missions is hardly less fertile than that of the first rise of the church, in these blessed and delightful proofs of the efficacy of the gospel, the reality of the Spirit’s presence with the word, and the transforming power of the doctrine of Christ. And how exquisite is the description, which the word of God itself supplies, to show the nature of this change, and to illustrate the moral causes which co-operate in producing it, wherever the love of Christ is made known! “We all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

 

Lastly, it is the crowning excellence of the Christian reve­lation, that it discloses the prospect, to those who receive and obey it, of a blessed immortality of love and holiness in the world to come. Not the bare certainty of a future state, which alone would be miserable comfort to the depraved and guilty—a living death, rather than life and immortality—but eternal life, including in that one word, peace, happiness, purity, light, love, and endless joy. And this is not a bare promise, but confirmed by a present earnest of its truth and certain fulfilment. For the same word which announces this blessed hope, declares also that eternal life is begun already in the heart of every believer in Christ, and appeals for the fact to their own present experience. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” The seeds of a perennial and undying happiness are already sown in the heart, when sin is forgiven, the desires renewed, the affections purified, and the slave of sensual pleasures filled with the love of Christ and of holiness. But while the truth of the promise is thus assured by a present and real earnest, that foretaste on earth, we are equally assured, furnishes no adequate measure of the greatness of the future blessing. For “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

 

Such are the main features of that revelation which the gospel supplies, and of which we find the record in those writings which it has been the object of these pages to examine, and prove historically faithful. It discovers the fallen and guilty state of mankind, but proclaims a sufficient and a glorious remedy, procured by the incarnation, the obedience, the example, the death and resurrection, of the everlasting Son of God. It brings deliverance to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who were bound with the double chain of sin and misery. It provides for those who embrace it, pardon through the atoning blood of Christ, holiness through the power of the Spirit of God, and the intercession of the Redeemer in glory, with “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away,” confirmed by the promise and oath of God to all them that believe in his word, and obey his revealed will. May the writer, and every reader of these pages, embrace this free mercy of the God of heaven! May the blood of Christ be our only hope for the forgiveness of all our guilt, the grace of the Holy Spirit our only dependence for power to walk in the way of peace and holiness, the kingdom of Christ the goal of all our desires, the blessed prize to which we continu­ally are seeking to attain! The perusal of these pages will then only be a true and lasting benefit, if it serves to deepen our faith in the word of God, and to confirm in us a holy resolution to embrace for ourselves the salvation of Christ, and to tread in the footsteps of the holy apostles, until faith shall be exchanged for sight, and the cavils and doubts of unbelieving hearts in a world of sin, for the vision of Christ, in all the fulness of his majesty, and in all the beauty of his infinite love!



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Posted 19 July 2013 - 04:22 PM

CHRONOLOGY OF THE BOOK OF ACTS AND OF ST. PAUL’S EPISTLES.

 

The details of the following Table are, of course, in some degree con­jectural. Those cases in which the dates, in the judgment of the com­piler, are most clearly established are in small capitals; and the others, it is believed, are either correct, or within one year of the true time. Italics are used, to render the succession of the epistles clearer to the eye. Their relative order, though not always their precise date, may be viewed as demonstratively ascertained.

 

A.D.

30.

April

The crucifixion.

 

 

 

 

(April, A.D. 33, Scaliger, Usher. March or April, A.D. 29, Ideler, Clinton, Browne, Benson.).

 

 

May

The first Pentecost.

 

36

June

The death of Stephen.

 

37.

April

The conversion of Saul.

 

 

Pentecost

First preaching of Saul.

 

40.

Pentecost

St. Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem.

 

 

September

St. Peter at Joppa.

 

41.

Pentecost

Conversion of Cornelius.

 

42.

February

Barnabas at Antioch.

 

 

Pentecost

St. Paul at Antioch.

 

43.

Passover

The prophecy of Agabus.

 

44.

Passover

St. Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem.

 

 

May

Death of Herod.

 

 

Pentecost

Return to Antioch.

 

45.

Pentecost

First circuit of Paul and Barnabas begins.

 

 

September

Arrival at Perga.

 

46.

 

Circuit through Pisidia and Pamphilia.

 

47.

September

Return to Antioch.

 

50.

Spring

Pharisees at Antioch.

 

 

Summer

Council at Jerusalem.

 

 

Autumn

St. Peter and St. Mark at Antioch.

 

51.

Spring

Second circuit begins.

 

 

September

St. Paul preaches at Galatia.

 

52.

February

St. Paul crosses from Troas into Europe

 

 

May

St. Paul leaves Philippi.

 

 

August

St. Paul at Athens.

 

 

September

St. Paul at Corinth.

 

 

November

First Epistle to Thessalonica.

 

53.

Spring

Second Epistle to Thessalonica.

 

 

Autumn

Epistle to the Galatians.

 

54.

January

Gallio, deputy of Achaia.

 

 

April

St. Paul sails from Corinth.

 

 

Pentecost

Fourth visit to Jerusalem.

 

 

Autumn

Second circuit of Galatia.

 

55.

January

St. Paul arrives at Ephesus.

 

 

April

Separation of the disciples.

 

57.

April

First Epistle to Corinth.

 

 

May

Departure from Ephesus.

 

 

July

Second Epistle to Corinth.

 

 

November

Arrival at Corinth.

 

58.

February

Epistle to the Romans.

 

 

Passover

St. Paul at Philippi.

 

 

Pentecost

Fifth visit to Jerusalem.

 

60.

Pentecost

Recall of Felix.

 

 

August

Voyage at Rome begins.

 

 

November

Shipwreck at Malta.

 

61.

February

Arrival at Rome.

 

62.

July

Epistle to the Ephesians.

 

 

 

Epistle to the Colossians.

 

 

 

Epistle to Philemon.

 

63.

February

Epistle to the Philippians.

 

 

June

Epistle to the Hebrews.

 

 

August

St. Paul in Crete.

 

 

Winter

St. Paul at Colosse.

 

64.

Spring

St. Paul in Macedonia.

 

 

Autumn

St. Paul at Corinth.

 

 

 

First Epistle to Timothy.

 

 

 

Epistle to Titus.

 

 

Winter

St. Paul at Nicopolis.

 

65.

Spring

St. Paul at Dalmatia and at Troas.

 

 

Summer

Apprehesion in Asia.

 

 

 

St. Paul a prisoner at Rome.

 

 

 

Second Epistle to Timothy.

 

66.

Spring

St. Paul martyred in Rome.

 

____________

 

THE RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY.

 

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