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St. Jerom is of opinion, that besides the divinity which evidently appeared in the miracles of the Lamb of God, there was a divine brightness and kind of majesty in his looks, which was at first sight sufficient to draw persons after him; but however that be, his miraculous powers that reflected a lustre from every quarter, and the efficacy of his doctrine accompanied with the divine grace made way for the summons sent to our apostle, and enabled him to conquer all oppositions, and all the difficulties that opposed his obeying the commands of his Saviour, when he received the powerful call.
A still further evidence of this contempt of the world appeared in his exemplary temperance and abstemiousness from all delights and pleasures; nay, even, from the ordinary conveniency and accommodations of it: he was so far from indulging his appetite with delicate rarities, that he refused to gratify it with lawful and ordinary provisions; his usual diet being only herbs, roots, seeds, and berries: but what appeared most remarkable in him, and which, though the least virtue in itself, is the greatest in the esteem and value of a wise man, was his humility: he was mean and foodest in his own opinion, always prefering others to himself: for whereas the other evangelists, in describing the apostles by pairs, constantly place him before St. Thomas, he modestly places him before himself.
The rest of the evangelists are careful to mention the honour of his apostleship, but speak of his former sordid, dishonest, and disgraceful course of life, only under the name of Levi; while he himself sets it down, with all its circumstances, under his own proper and common name; a conduct which at once commends the prudence and candour of the apostle, and suggests to us this useful reflection. That the greatest sinners are not excluded from divine grace; nor can any, if penitent, have just reason to despair, when
publicans and sinners find mercy at the throne of grace. The conduct of the other evangelists with regard to St. Matthew, should also teach us to use a penitent brother with the greatest modesty and tenderness ; it being contrary to the rules of civility, as well as the laws of religion, to upbraid and reproach a person, after his repentance, with the errors of his former life and practices.
We shall conclude the life of this apostle with a remark concerning his gospel, which was written at the entreaty of the Jewish converts, while he abode in Palestine, but at what particular time, is uncertain ; some will have it to be written eight, some fifteen, and some thirty years after our Lord's ascension: it was originally written in Hebrew, but, soon after translated into Ġreek by one of the disciples, probably by St. James the Less : but whoever the translator was, is of no consequence, because the version was well known to the apostles, and approved by them; and accordingly the church has from the earliest ages received the Greek copy as authentic, and placed it in the sacred canon of Scripture.
The Greek translation having been entertained, the Hebrew copy was afterwards chiefly owned and used by the Nazaræi, a middle sect between Jews and Christians; with the former, they adhered to the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law; and with the latter, they believed in Christ, and embraced his religion; and hence this gospel has been styled, “The gospel according to the Hebrews, and the gospel of the Nazarenes.' But after a time, it was interpolated by these Christians, who inserted several passages of the evangelical history; which they had heard from the apostles, or from those who had familiarly conversed with them; and to these additions the ancient fathers frequently refer in their writings. The Ebonites, on the contrary, struck out many passages because they were not favourable to their tenets. A Hebrew
copy of St. Matthew's gospel (but whether exactly the same as that written by the apostle, is uncertain) was found amongst the other books in the treasury of the Jews at Tiberias, by one Joseph, a Jew, who after his conversion, was a man of great honour and esteem in the reign of Constantine, St. Jerom assures us that another was kept in the library at Cæsarea in his time, and another by the Nazarenes at Berea, from whom he procured the liberty to transcribe it, and which he afterwards translated both into Greek and Latin, with this remarkable observation, that in quoting the text of the Old Testament, the evangelist immediately follows the Hebrew, without taking notice of the Septuagint translation. A copy of this gospel was also dug up in the year 485, on opening the grave of St. Barnabas, in Cyprus, transcribed with his own hand; but these copies have long since perished : and with regard to those published since by Tile and Munster, the barbarous and corrupt stile sufficiently demonstrate that they were not originals, but the translation of a more ignorant and corrupt age, and therefore deservedly rejected by the more judicious and enlightened part of mankind.
THE LIFE OF ST. MARK,
The Evangelist and Apostle,
THOUGH the name of St. Mark seems to be of Roman original, he was nevertheless descended from Jewish parents, and of the tribe of Levi: nor was it uncommon amongst the Jews to change their names on some remarkable revolution or incident of life, or when they intended to travel into any of the Roman Provinces in Europe.
St. Mark was generally considered by the ancients, as one of the seventy disciples; and Epiphanius expressly tells us, that he was one of those who, taking exception at our Lord's discourse of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, went back and walked no more with him. But there appears no manner of foundation for these opinions, nor for that of Nicephorus, who will have him to be the son of St. Peter's sister: nay, Pepias, bishop of Hierapolis, who lived near the apostolic times, positively affirms, that he was neither a hearer nor follower of our Saviour It is therefore most probable, that he was converted by some of the apostles, perhaps by St. Peter, whom he constantly attended in his travels, supplying the place of an amanuensis and interpreter: for though the apostles were divinely inspired, and had, amongst other miraculous powers, the gift of tongues conferred upon them, yet the interpretation of tongues was a gift more peculiar to some than to others; and this probably was St. Mark's talent, in expounding St. Peter's discourses whether by word or writing, to those who were strangers to the language in which they were delivered: but however this be, he accompanied him in his apostolical progress, preached the gospel in Italy and at Rome, where at the request of the Christians of those parts, he composed and wrote the gospel, which is called after his name.
We are told by Eusebius, that St. Mark was sent into Egypt by St. Peter to preach the gospel, and accordingly planted a church in Alexandria, the metropolis of it; and his success was so very remarkable, that he converted multitudes both of men and women, persuading them not only to embrace the Christian religion, but also a life of more than ordinary strictness. That there was indeed a sect in Egypt remarkably strict in their discipline is evident from Philo, who gives the following account of them.
* There is, says he, a sort of persons in many parts
of the world, especially near the Marcotick lake in Egypt, who have formed themselves into religious societies and lead a strict pbilosophical and contemplative course of life. When they first enter on this manner of living, they renounce all secular interests and employments, and leaving their estates to their relations, retire into gardens, and places devoted to solitude and contemplation. Their houses, or colleges, are not contiguous, that, being free from noise and tumult, they might the better attend to the designs of a contemplative life ; nor yet removed at too great a distance, that they may maintain mutual society, and be conveniently capable of helping and assisting one another. In each of these houses is an oratory, called Semnion and Monasterion, in which they discharged the more secret and solemn rites of their religion, divided in the middle by a partition-wall three or four cubits high, one apartment being for the men, and the other for the women. Here they publicly meet every seventh day, where, being seated according to their seniority, and having composed themselves with great decency and reverence, the most aged person amongst them and the best skilled in the dogmata and principles of their institution, comes forth into the midst, gravely and soberly discoursing on what may make the greatest impression on their minds; the rest attending with the most profound silence, and only testifying their assent with the motion of their eyes 'or head. Their discourses are commonly mystical and allegorical, seeking hidden senses under plain words: and of such an allegorical philosophy the books of their religion, left them by their ancestors, consist: the law they compare to an animal, the letters of it resembling the body, while the soul of it lies in these abstruse and recondite notions, which the external veil and surface of the words conceal from common understanding.
· With regard to their method of living, they take very little care of their bodies, spending their whole