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learned to speak Greek, which was the common language of the city, and which soon became the native language of the Jews that lived there, who, on that account, were called Hellenists, or Greek Jews, mentioned Acts vi. 1, 9, and xi. 20. These Greek Jews had Synagogues in Alexandria; and for their benefit, the five books of Moses, which alone, at first, were publicly read, were translated into Greek, by whom is uncertain, and read in their Synagogues every sabbath day.
In the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, about 168 years before Christ, when the prophets began to be read in the synagogues of Judea, these writings also were translated into Greek, for the use of the Alexandrian Jews. This translation contributed much to the spreading of the knowledge of true religion among the nations in the western parts of the world.
As for the Jews, their synagogues and worship, were, after Alexander's death, dispersed almost every where among the nations. Ptolemy, one of Alexander's successors, having reduced Jerusalem and all Judea, about 320 years before Christ, carried 100,000 Jews into Egypt, and there raised considerable numbers of them to places of trust and power; and several of them he placed in Cyrene and Lybia.
Seleucus, another of Alexander's successors, about 300 years before Christ, built Antioch, in Cilicia, and many other cities, in all thirty-five; and some of them capital cities in the greater and lesser Asia: in all which he planted Jews, giving them cqual privileges and immunities with the Greeks and Macedonians; especially at Antioch, in Syria, where they settled in great numbers, and became almost as considerable a part of that city as they were at Alexandria
On that memorable day of Pentecost, Acts, ii. 5, 9, 11, and 12, were assembled in Jerusalem, "Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven; namely, Parthians, Medes, and Persians of the province of Elymais; inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphilia in Egypt, Cyrene in Lybia, Rome; Cretes, and Arabs, who were all either natural Jews, or devout men, i. e. proselytes to the Jewish religion. And in every city of the Roman empire where Paul preached, he found a body of his countrymen, the Jews, except in Athens, which was at that time I suppose, a town of no considerable trade.
This shows, that the Jews, and their synagogues, at the time of our Lord's appearance, were providentially scattered over all the Roman empire; and had in every place introduced more
or less, among the nations, the knowledge and worship of God; and so had prepared great numbers for the reception of the Gospel.
About the time that Alexander built Alexandria in Egypt, the use of the Papyrus, for writing, was first found out in that country.
This invention was so favourable to literature, that Ptolemy Soter, one of Alexander's succes» sors, was thereby enabled to erect a museum or library, which, by his son and successor, Ptolemy Philadelphus, who died 247 years before Christ, was augmented to a hundred thousand volumes; and by succeeding Ptolemies to seven hundred thousand. Part of this library, which was placed in a separate building from the other part, happened to be burnt when Julius Cæsar laid siege to Alexandria; but after that loss, it was again much augmented, and, at length, was larger and of more eminent note than the former; and it continued for many ages to be of great fame and use in those parts; till at length it was burnt, and finally destroyed by the Saracens, in the year of our Lord 642.
This plainly proves how much the invention of turning the Papyrus into paper, contributed to the increase of books, and the advancement of learning, for some ages before the coming of our Lord. For doubtless by this means, private
hands would also more easily be supplied with books than before.
In addition to all this, the world, after many changes and revolutions, was, by God's all-ruling wisdom, thrown into that form of civil affairs, which best suited with the great intended alteration. The many petty states and tyrannies, whose passions and haughty bigotry might have run counter to the schemes of Providence, were all swallowed up in one great power, the Roman; to which all appeals lay. Rome, the seat of this power, was at a great distance from Jerusalem, the source and spring whence the gospel was to rise and flow to all nations. Therefore, as no material obstruction to the gospel could arise, but from that one quarter, none could suddenly arise; but only in process of time, when the gospel was sufficiently spread and established; as it did not, in the least, interfere with the Roman polity or government.
The gospel was first published in a time of general peace and tranquillity throughout the world, which gave the preachers of it an opportunity of passing freely from one country to another, and the minds of men, the advantage of attending calmly to it. Many savage nations were civilized by the Romans, and acquainted with the arts and virtues of their conquerors.
Thus we see the darkest countries had their thoughts awakened, and attained to a capacity of receiving, at the stated time, the knowledge of true religion. So that all things and circumstances conspired now with the views of Heaven, and made this, apparently, the fulness of time, (Gal. iv. 4,) or the fittest juncture for God to reveal himself to the Gentiles, and to commence the extermination of idolatry from the earth. The minds of men were generally ripe for a purer and brighter dispensation, and the circumstances of the world were such as favoured the success and progress of it.
In this very time the Messiah came; nor does it appear that he could have come so opportunely at any other; because the world, at no other preceding time, was so well prepared to receive his doctrines. As to remission of sin, and eternal salvation, it is all one whenever he came. The sacrifice, which he offered for sin, had its effect with regard to the time past, as well as to the time to come; to the penitent that were dead, as well as to the living, or those that were yet to be born. Immortality must belong as much to those who lived virtuously according to their degree of light, before the Messiah came, as to those who lived after his coming; and the blessedness of the future state, though not alike re