« PreviousContinue »
afterwards, he was going to have put to death? In short, if any of the apostler were greater than the rest, how came Jesus, when they disputed about superiority, to reprove them, and to declare they were all brethren, or equals ? In the catalogue, Simon, the brother of Andrew, is distinguished from the other Simon by the surname of Peter, which had been conferred on him when he first became acquainted with Jesus at Jordan. The reason of the name, however, was not assigned till long after ihat, viz. when Simon declared his faiih in Jesus, as Messiah; (Mat. xvi. 17, 18.] for it was then that Jesus told him he was called Cephas Peter, (which, by interpretation, is a rock,) on account of the fortitude wherewith he was to preach the gospel. Simon and Andrew were, originally, fishermen, and inhabitants of Bethsaida, à town situated on the north shore of the lake of Gennezareth. But, after Peter was married, he and his brother settled in Capernaum, perhaps, because his wife lived there. Before they became acquainted with Christ, they were disciples of the Baptist, who pointed him out to thein as Messiah. Andrew has left no writings, for which reason we are at a loss to judge of his spirit and endowments ; but Peter was the author of the two epistles which bear his name.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also fishermen ; they dwelt in Capernaum, and seem to have been rather in better circumstances than Peter and Andrew, for the gospels speak of their having hired servants to assist them in their business. John is thought to have been the youngest of all the apostles ; yet he was old enough to have been the follower of the Baptist before he came to Christ. On this, or some other occasion, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, obtained the surname of Boanerges, i. e. sons of thunder, perhaps, because of the vehemence and impetuosity of their tempers. Accordingly, their spirit shewed itself in the desire which they expressed to have the Samaritans destroyed by fire from heaven, because they refused to lodge Jesus in his way to Jerusalem. It appeared, also, in their ambition to become the great officers of state in their Master's kingdom, which they supposed would be a secular one. Besides, John's writings shew that he was a man of a warm and affectionate turn of mind. The warmth of his temper gave him a singular fitness for friendship, in which he was not only amiable above all the disciples, but happy, as it rendered him the object of Christ's peculiar love; a love which will do him honour to the end of the world. As for James, his being put to death by Herod is a proof that his zeal was uncommon, and that it moved him to be more active and bold than the rest in the work of the gospel. Had it been otherwise, he would not have become the object either of Herod's jealousy or resentment. Some, indeed, are of opinion, that the epithet, sons of thunder, was not expressive of the dispositions of the two brothers, but of the force and success with which they should preach the gospel. Yet, if that had been the reason of the surname, it was equally applicable to all the apostles.
Philip is said to have been a native of Bethsaida, the town of Peter and Andrew. Fie was originally a disciple of the Baptist ; but he left him to follow Jesus, as soon as he became acquainted with him at Jordan. [Jolm i. 44.]
Bartholomew is supposed to have been the disciple called Nathaniel, whose conversion is related John i. 45. And the supposition is probable, were it for no other reason but this, that all the other persons who became acquainted with Jesus at Jordan, when he was baptized, and who believed on bim there, were chosen of the number of the apostles. If so, why should Nathaniel have been excluded ? He was one of those who believed on Jesus then, and was a person of such probity, that he obtained from Jesus the high character of an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile. In eevry respect, therefore, he was equally worthy of the honour of the apostleshir
with the rest. Accordingly, when Jesus shewed himself to the apostles at the sea of Tiberias, after his resurrection, Nathaniel is expressly mentioned, by John, among them.
Farther, in the catalogue of the apostles given by Matthew, where the apostles are thought to be coupled in pairs as they were sent out to preach, Philip was joined with Bartholomew, which agrees very well with the supposition that Bartholomew was the same person with Nathaniel. For, from the history of Nathaniel's conversion, it appears, that Philip was his intimate acquaintance, and the person who first introduced him to Jesus. The difference of names is no objection to the supposition which Dr. Macknight contends for. Bartholomew signifies the son of Tolmai, so may have been a patronymic, and not this disciple's proper name. Or, without having recourse to this solution, why not Bartholomew have had two names as well as Matthew, who, throughout the wl:ole of his gospel, does not sign himseif by his other name Levi? After the death of Judas Iscariot, when the apostles met to choose one in his place, Nathaniel was not proposed as a candidate for that office. This cannot be accounted for on any supposition, but that he enjoyed the diguity already. For that he was still alive, and continued to associate with the disciples, is evident from Jolm xx. 1. To conclude : the antients seem to have thought Bartholomew the same with Nathaniel ; for, from what John tells us of the latter, that he was of Cana, (John xxi. 2.] they assign the honour of Bartholomew's nativity to the same town, and add, that he was a person skilled in the law.
Matthew was a publican of Capernaum. He was otherwise named Levi, (Mark ii. 14.] and left a gainful employment for the sake of Christ. He wrote the gospel to which his name is prefixed, and was the son of one Alpheus, [Mark ii. 14.] of whom we know nothing but the name, excepting that he was a different person from Alpheus the father of James.
There is no mention made of Thomas before his conversion. However, it is conjectured, that, like the rest, he was of mean extraction. And because he is named among those who went a fishing, (John xxi. 2, 3.) it is supposed that he was a fisherman by occupation. He obtained the surname of Didymus, [John xi. 16.] probably, because he was a twin. This apostle made himself remarkable, by continuing longer than his brethren to doubt of Christ's resurrection,
In the college of apostles, besides James, the son of Zebedee, and brother of John, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed his master, and Simon surnamed Peter, we find James, the son of Alpheus, surnamed the less or younger, [Mark xv. 40.] to distinguish him from the other James, the son of Zebedee, who was elder than he ; also Judas, or Lebbeus, surnamed Thaddeus, the brother of James the Less, and Simon, surnamed Zelotes. James the Less, Judas Thaddeus, and Simon Zelotes, were brothers, and Sons of one Alpheus, or Cleophas, [John xix. 25, compared with Mat. xxvii. 56, and Mat
. xiii. 55, and Mark iii. 18.] who was, likewise, a disciple, being one of the two to whom our Lord appeared on the road to Emmaus, after his resurrection. They are called Christ's brethren, [Mat. xiii. 55.] that is, his cousins, in which sense the word is used Lev. x. 4. It seems, their mother Mary [Mat. xxviii. 56, compared with John xix. 25.] was sister to Mary, our Lord's mother; for it was no unusual thing among the Jews to have more children than one of a family called by the same name. The three apostles, therefore, who go by the name of our Lord's brethren, were, really, his cousin-germans. James the Less, and Judas Thaddeus, wrote the epistles which bear their names. This James was a person of great authority among the apostles ; for, in the council which met at Jerusalem to decide the dispute about
the necessity of circumcision, we find him, as president of the meeting, summirg up the debate, and wording the decree.
Simon, the cousin of our Lord, and brother of James the Less, is called, by Mark, the Canaanite. But, from the above account of his relations, it is plain that the epithet does not express his descent, otherwise his brothers, James and Judas, ought to have been Canaanites likewise. Luke calls him Simon Zelotes, which seems to be the Greek translation of the Hebrew appellation given him by Mark ; for, from zelotypus fuit, he was jealous, comes of the Chaldaic word zelotes, a zealot. Wherefore, the appellation of Canaanite given to Simon, by Mark, and Zelotes, the epithet which he he bears in Luke, are as perfectly the same as Cephas and Petros, Tabiiha and Dorcas. The zealots were a particular sect or faction among the Jews, who, in later times, under colour of zeal for God, committed all the disorders imaginable. They pretended to imitate the zeal which Phinehas, Elijah, and the Maccabees, expressed, in the manner of punishing offenders ; but they acted from blind fury, or from worse principles, without regard either to the laws of God, or to the dictates of reason. Some are of opinion, that Simon, the apostle, had formerly been one of this pestilential faction : but as there is no mention made of it till a little before the destruction of Jerusalem, we may rather suppose that, the surname of Zelotes was given him on account of his uncommon zeal in matters of true piety and religion.
Judas, the traitor, was the son of one Simon. [John vi. 71.] He had the surname of Iscariot given him, to distinguish him from Judas Thaddeus, our Lord's cousin. The literal meaning of Iscariot is a man of Cariot, or Kerioth, which was a town in the tribe of Judah. [Josh. xv. 25.] In all probability, therefore, this surname denotes the place of the traitor's nativity. Some pretend that, among the Jews, no person was surnamed by the place of this birth, but such as were illustrious on account of their station; and so would have us believe that Judas was a person of some distinction. They think his being intrusted with the bag, or stock-purse, preferably to all the rest, is a confirmation of this. But as the other apostles were men of mean condition, these arguments are too trivial to prove that Judas was distinguished from them in that particular.
Thus were the foundations of the church laid in twelve illiterate Galileans, who, being, at first, utterly ignorant of the nature and end of their office, and destitute of the qualifications necessary to discharge the duties of it, integrity excepted, were the most unlikely persons in the world to confound the wisdom of the wise, to baffle the power of the mighty, to overturn the many false religions which then flourished
every where under the protection of civil government, and, in a word, to reform the universally corrupted manners of mankind. Had human prudence been to make choice of instruments for so grand an undertaking, doubtless, such as were remarkable for deep science, strong reasoning, and prevailing eloquence, would have been pitched upon ; and these endowments, probably, would have been set off with the external advantages of wealth and power.
. But lo ! the wisdom of God, infinitely superior to that of men, acted quite differently in this matter. For the treasure of the gospel was committed to earthen vessels, that the excellency of its power might, in all countries, be seen to be of God. Accordingly, the religion which these Galileans taught through the world, without having at all applied themselves to letters, exhibited a far juster notion of the nature and perfections of God, and of the duty of man, than the Grecian ond Roman philosophers were able to attain, though their lives were spent in contemplation and study. Ilence, by its own intrinsic splendour, as well as by the external glory of the miracles which accompanied it, this religion shewed itself to be altogether
of divine original. Besedes, it was attended with a success answerable to its dignity and truth. It was received every where, by the bulk of mankind, with the highest applause, as something they had hitherto been seeking in vain ; while the maxims and precepts of the philosophers never spread themselves farther than the particular schools., It was, therefore, with the highest wisdom, that the foundations of the church were thus laid in the labours of a few weak, illiterate fishermen. For, with irresistible evidence, it demonstrated, that the immense fåbric was, at first, raised, and is still sustained, not by the arm of flesh, but purely by the hand of Almighty God.
FROM THE FIRST TO THE SECOND MISSION OF THE APOSTLES.
Christ preaches the sermon on the plain--whether it was the same as the sermon on the
mount---Cures a centurion's servant in Capernaum---whether the same with the young man recorded Mat. viii.---the apostles receive their commission and instructions--the widow's son raised at Nain--publicity of the miracle---Matthew's feast---conversation between our Lord and John's disciples---cure of the woman who had the bloody issuethe resurrection of Jairus's daughter---manner of the Jewish mourning---Christ cures two blind men, and expels a demon---the Pharisees ascribe his miracles to Beelzebub--he answers the enquiries of John's messengers, and vindicates the Baptist's character . BU he pronounces heavy woes upon such cities as had slighted his doctrine---ke dines with Simon, the Pharisee, and has his feet anointed with fragrant ointment---pious women supply Christ's necessities---Christ's miracles again ascribed to Beelzebub---the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit---the sign from heaven---Christ greater than Jonas or Solomon---his followers dearer than his mother or brethren---the sermon of parables--the parable of the sower---of the lighted lamp---why Christ taught in parables---the parable of the tares, or darnel---of the sced that sprung up imperceptibly---of the leaven --- many parables---the explanation of the parable of the tares---the parable of the treasure hid in the field---of the pearl of great price---of the net which gathered every kind---of the householder who brings forth things new and old---Christ goes to Nazareth, but is rejected by his townsmen---the twelve apostles sent forth a second time---their commission.
THE miracles of our Lord Jesus Christ had been so numerous, public, and astonishing, that they excited very general attention, and induced many to suppose that he was a great prophet, if not the Messiah of God. It was little wonder, therefore, that the people gathered round him, from all quarters, in such vast crowds, as to tread one another down, (Luke xii. 1.] and waited for him whole nights in the fields, and followed him from place to place, even to the remotest corners of the country. He was followed, not merely by vast multitudes of the common people, but many of those who were of character and station occasionally visited him, to hear his conversation, to observe his miracles, and, in some instances, to solicit the cures of their children and servants. Therefore, the character, as well as the multitude, of our Lord's folLower, and the frequent application that was made to him for cures, by persons of all