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mine whether we have in the Gospel of Luke and Acts the whole of the historical treatise projected by the author. It is possible to contend that these two Books fairly meet the promise of the General Preface (Luke i. 1-4). What seems to be promised there is a comprehensive, accurate, orderly history of the origins of Christianity—such a history as would lay a basis for confidence with respect to what had, up to the time of writing, been consummated among Christians. The writer's mind, clearly, was filled with a sense of the great achievement of Christianity in the world. A stage of development had been attained which could be looked upon as a consummation ; and which could be considered a goal as leading up to which the whole previous history could be contemplated. The point of sight cannot, accordingly, have been merely the ascension of Christ; this marked a point rather of inception than of consummation. It does not seem impossible, however, that the point of sight should be taken from the completion of the work of Paul as Apostle to the Gentiles, as marked, say, at least potentially, by his arrival at Rome and his two years of unhindered preaching in the capital of the world. The spectacle exhibited in the Acts of the rapid advance of the Gospel from its starting - point, and the progressive establishment of the Christian Church in the great centres of population and influence from Jerusalem to Rome, might well seem accomplishment enough to satisfy the sense of the attainment of great things which underlies the calm but pregnant words of the Preface.
Nevertheless, it does not seem likely that these two Books constitute the whole treatise which the author had it in mind to write. Acts closes after a fashion quite like the closing of Luke, and with all and more of its suggestion of something to
follow. If the way in which the Gospel ends seems abrupt and unsatisfying on the supposition that it is the end of the story, much more is this true in the case of Acts. The reader's expectation has been kept on the strain through many chapters for the climax of the visit to Rome (xix. 21, xxiii. II, xxv. II, 21, 28, xxvii. 24, xxviii. 14, 16; cp. Rom. i. 10-15, xv. 22-29), and his interest has been apparently purposely fixed upon the approaching trial of Paul before the Emperor of the world (xxv. 10, xxvii. 24). Yet, when the culmination of the whole story is attained, absolutely nothing is made of it. Paul reaches Rome, calls the leaders of the Jewish community there to a conference-apparently to ascertain whether they were primed to press for his condemnation--and, then, the trial itself is not even mentioned, and all that the reader has been led to believe that the fulfilment of Paul's long-cherished desire to reach Rome meant to the Apostle drops utterly out of sight. The Book closes abruptly with the brief remark that he preached two whole years at Rome without molestation. These two years were, it must be borne in mind, already past when these words were penned. The change that the limitation of time implies had taken place; and the change was either release or execution. How could the author intend to leave his readers uninformed of the issue? It seems incredible that the work should close in this manner. But that the Book should close thus lies in the very nature of the case, and stands in very close analogy with the manner in which the First Book of this history is brought to its close. Surely every reader reaching the end of the Second Book would confidently expect yet a Third, to which this mode of closing pointed not obscurely.
We shall not be surprised, therefore, to observe that the author in his description of this Book has really told us that it does not bring the whole work to a conclusion. For in its opening verse he does not (as our English version misrepresents him) speak of the Former Book, but rather of the First Book of his treatise as already in the hands of his patron. And there seems no reason why this language may not be supposed to be employed with precision. The hints in this Preface appear, moreover, to hold out a broader promise than the Book meets, and lead us to look for a Third Book, in which there should be recorded the rest of what Jesus continued to do and to teach through His servants after He was received up, until witness had been borne Him unto the uttermost part of the earth.' We need not speculate upon the probable contents of this projected Third Book. It is enough, meanwhile, to be assured that it was contemplated, and that our Acts cannot be looked upon as a complete treatise, even upon Apostolic history, but is only the middle section of a great historical work, never fully completed, which was to contain the history of the beginnings of Christianity, with a view especially to exhibiting its Divine origin and mission, and its Divine fitting for the great work committed to it.
Point of View of Acts. Only a particular portion of this comprehensive programme is included in the section of the work contained in its Second Book. Speaking sub specie temporis, we may perhaps say that the First Book-our Gospel of Lakeis devoted to the preparation for the Church of Christ; the Second Book-our Book of Acts—to the establishment of the Church in the Roman Empire, with its centre in the capital city; while the Third Book, perhaps, was to exhibit the equip
ment of the Church for its great function in the world. The author, however, does not himself look at the matter sub specie temporis. The whole development is conceived by him sub specie æternitatis. Accordingly, he puts it thus (Act i. 1). The First Book treats of all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day in which He was taken up. The two subsequent Books were to treat of all that Jesus continued to do and to teach after His ascension. To him, thus, the second section was the Acts of the Apostles' only in so far as the Apostles were conceived as the instruments through which Jesus prosecuted His work of establishing His Church in the world. It was specifically the Acts of the Risen Christ. It therefore begins with an account of the forty days which Jesus spent with His disciples after His resurrection, and of the Ascension itself which brought them to a close by His session on the throne of His power. This whole account was purposely held over from the Gospel, and is here set forth in a manner that throws into relief the relation of the events recorded rather to what was yet to come than to what was already past. For the same reason the baptism of the Holy Spirit is particularly dwelt upon, and the narrative hastens on to the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost, when the promise of the Father' came and the nascent Church was endowed for its work with a supernatural power, or rather with a supernatural agent. At every step in the progress of the history, moreover, explicit stress is laid upon its Divine direction, so that not only is there continual reference to the intervention of God, but the whole course of the history is represented as determined by Divine leading. It has been sometimes imagined that the miraculous element might be sifted out from Acts and a residuum for a natural history of the origins of Christianity left. Nothing could be more impossible. Not merely are the miracles recorded inseparably interwoven with the narrative, so that the whole must be taken or the whole left, but the whole history is conceived from a supernatural point of view, and developed as a distinctively supernatural product. To the author of this Book Christianity was not established as the Roman empire by Divinely-aided men ; it was established by the Lord Jesus Himself, ordering all things according to His will and using men as instruments in the developing of His plans.
The Programme of the Work is appropriately, therefore, drawn from a heavenly source, and seeks to present the history as the sheer unfolding of the announced purpose of the risen Lord. Something like the formal enunciation of its theme is given in Luke xxiv. 47, our Lord's prophetic announcement that, after the promise of the Father' had been received by His followers, repentance and remission of sins were to be preached in His name 'unto all the nations, beginning with Jerusalem'; and even more specifically in Acts i. 8, where the promise is that His followers should receive power when the Holy Ghost had come upon them, and should be His witnesses, 'both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.' It is much in the manner of this author to prepare the way for his detailed treatment by anticipatory communications of this sort; and there is every reason to suspect that by his prominent record of these predictions he wished to forecast the outline of the narrative upon which he was about to enter. The actual contents of the Book as it lies before us encourage this suspicion. The reception of