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  The art of Gibbon, or at least the unfair impression produced by his two memorable chapters, consists in his confounding together, in one indistinguishable mass, the origin and apostolic propagation of the new religion, with its later progress.

  He might have annihilated the whole fabric of post-apostolic miracles, if he had left uninjured by sarcastic insinuation those of the New Testament.

  As to the frequent apostasy of the Jews, their religion was beyond their state of civilization.

  The Jewish converts, or, as they were afterwards called, the Nazarenes, who had laid the foundations of the church, soon found themselves overwhelmed by the increasing multitudes, that from all the various religions of polytheism enlisted under the banner of Christ: and the Gentiles, who, with the approbation of their peculiar apostle, had rejected the intolerable weight of the Mosaic ceremonies, at length refused to their more scrupulous brethren the same toleration which at first they had humbly solicited for their own practice.

  The unfortunate Ebionites, rejected from one religion as apostates, and from the other as heretics, found themselves compelled to assume a more decided character.

Ignatius, who had lived with the apostles or their disciples, repeat in other words that which St.

  Besides the occasional prodigies, which might sometimes be effected by the immediate interposition of the Deity when he suspended the laws of Nature for the service of religion, the Christian church, from the time of the apostles and their first disciples, ^73 has claimed an uninterrupted succession of miraculous powers, the gift of tongues, of vision, and of prophecy, the power of expelling daemons, of healing the sick, and of raising the dead.

Middleton, it is impossible to overlook the clear traces of visions and inspiration, which may be found in the apostolic fathers.

  Whatever aera is chosen for that purpose, the death of the apostles, the conversion of the Roman empire, or the extinction of the Arian heresy, ^82 the insensibility of the Christians who lived at that time will equally afford a just matter of surprise.

  The hostile disputants of Rome, of Paris, of Oxford, and of Geneva, have alike struggled to reduce the primitive and apostolic model ^104 to the respective standards of their own policy.

  The few who have pursued this inquiry with more candor and impartiality, are of opinion, ^105 that the apostles declined the office of legislation, and rather chose to endure some partial scandals and divisions, than to exclude the Christians of a future age from the liberty of varying their forms of ecclesiastical government according to the changes of times and circumstances.

  They displayed them at an improper season, presumptuously disturbed the service of the assembly, and, by their pride or mistaken zeal, they introduced, particularly into the apostolic church of Corinth, a long and melancholy train of disorders.

  The bishops were afterwards charged to watch over the faith and the instruction of the disciples: the apostles themselves appointed several bishops.

Whether he was, as Gibbon from Mosheim supposes, merely an elective head of the College of Presbyters, (for this we have, in fact, no valid authority,) or whether his distinct functions were established on apostolic authority, is still contested.

  The bishops were the vicegerents of Christ, the successors of the apostles, and the mystic substitutes of the high priest of the Mosaic law.