« ElőzőTovább »
ed by St. Paul, and that he learned the history of his gospel from the conversation of that apostle, and wrote it under his direction; and that when St. Paul, in one of his epistles, says, according to my gospel, he means this of St. Luke, which he styles his, from the great share he had in its composition.
They, on the other hand, who hold that he wrote his gospel from his own personal knowledge, obser ve, that he could not receive it from St. Paul, as an eye-witness of the matter contained in it, because all those matters were transacted before his conversion; and that he never saw our Lord before he appeared to him in his journey to Damascus, which was some time after he ascended into heaven. Consequently, when St. Paul says, according to my gospel, he means no more than the gospel in general which he preached; the whole preaching of the apostles, styled the gospel, all having an uniform tendency to inculcate and establish the faith and practice of the Christian religion.
But they further observe, that it is not probable that St. Luke was converted by St Paul, because the latter would in that case have styled him his son, it being the constant practice of the apostles to call all eminent converts by that appellation ; but he mentions him by the name of Luke, the beloved physician. They therefore suppose
that he studied the law in one of the schools of Jerusalem, where he was converted by our Lord, and was one of the seventy disciples mentioned in Scripture.
However this be, St. Luke became the inseparable companion of St. Paul in all his travels, and his constant fellow-labourer in the work of the ministry; he followed him in all his dangers, was with him at his several arraignments at Jerusalem, accompanied him in his tedious and dangerous voyage to Rome, where he still at. tended on him, to administer to him in his necessities, and supply those ministerial offices, which the apostle's confinement would not suffer him to undertake; and
especially in carrying messages to other churches, where he had planted the Christian religion. This infinitely endeared him to St. Paul, who seemed delighted with owning him for his fellow-labourer and in calling him the beloved physician, and the brother whose praise is in the gospel, 2 Cor. viii, 18.
It is very probable, he did not leave St. Paul till he had finished his course, and received the crown of martyrdom ; though some tell us, that he left St. Paul at Rome, and returned back into the East, travelling into Egypt and several parts of Lybia, where he preached the gospel, wrought miracles, converted multitudes, and constituted guides and ministers of religion ; nay that he himself undertook the episcopal charge of the city of Thebais. Epiphanius tells us, that he first preached in Dalmatia and Galatia, then in Italy and Macedonia, where he spared no pains, and declined no dangers, that he might faithfully discharge the trust committed to him by his great Master.
The time or manner of his death are not very well agreed upon by the ancients; some affirming him to die in Egypt, others in Greece, the Roman martyrology in Bythinia, and Dorothæus at Ephesus; some will have that he died a natural, and others a violent death. Indeed, neither Eusebius nor St. Jerom take any notice of it, but Gregory Nazianzen, Paulinus bishop of Nola, and several others, expressly assert, that he suffered martyrdom; and Nicephorus gives us this particular account of it: "That coming into Greece, he successfully preached the gospel, and baptised many converts into the Christian faith, till, at last, a party of infidels opposed his doctrines; but being unable to silence him by reason and argument, they had recourse to cruelty, dragged .im from the place where he was teaching the gospel, and hung him on an olive tree, in the eightieth, or according to St. Jerom, in the eighty fourth year of his age.” Kirstenius thinks, he suffered martyrdom at Rome soon after St. Pauls first imprisonment be
cause he did not continue his acts of the apostles any further, which it is natural to think he would have done had he lived any considerable time after St. Paul's departure. His body was afterwards, by the command of Constantine, or his son Constantius, removed with great solemnity to Constantinople, and buried in the great church, erected to the memory of the apostles, in that city.
His gospel, and the acts of the apostles, were written by him for the use of the church; both which he dedicated to Theophilus, which many of the ancients supposed to be a feigned name, denoting a lover of God, a title common to all sincere Christians : but others think it was a real person, because the title of “ most excel- . lent,” is attributed to him, the usual title and form of address in those times to princes and great mcn. Probably he was some magistrate, whom St. Luke had converted and baptized, and to whom he dedicated these books, not only as a testimony of honourable respect, but also as a means of giving him further certainty and assurance of those things wherein he had instructed him, and which it was requisite he should be informed of.
The principal transactions of our Lord's life are contained in his gospel ; and the particulars omitted by him, are, in general, of less importance than those the other evangelists forbear to mention.
The acts of the apostles written by St. Luke were no doubt penned at Rome, about the time of St. Paul's imprisonment there, with which he concludes his history. It contains the actions, and sometimes the suf. ferings of the principal apostles, especially St. Paul, whose activity in the cause of Christ made him bear a greater part in the labours of his master: and St. Luke being his constant attendant, an eye witness of the whole carriage of his life, and privy to his most intimate transactions was consequently capable of giving a more full
and satisfactory account of them. Amongst other things he enumerates the great miracles the apostles did in confirmation of the doctrine they advanced.
His manner of writing, in both these treatises, is exact and accurate; his style noble and elegant, sublime and lofty, and yet clear and perspicuous, flowing with an easy and natural grace and sweetness, admirably adapted to an historical design. In short, as an historian, he was faithful in his relations, and elegant in his writing; as a minister, careful and diligent for the good of souls; as a Christian, devout and pious; and to crown all the rest, laid down his life in testimony of that gospel he had both preached and published to the world, by the command of his Lord.
THE LIFE OF ST. JOHN,
The Apostle and Evangelist; commonly called the Divine, This beloved disciple of our Lord was a native of Galilee, the son of Zebedee and Salome, one of those devout women that constantly attended on our Lord in his ministry, and brother of James the Great. Before his becoming a disciple of the blessed Jesus, he was, in all probability, a follower of John the Baptist, and is thought to be that other disciple, who, in the first chapter of his gospel, is said to have been present with Andrew when John had declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God, and thereupon to have followed him to the place of his residence.
Though St. John was by much the youngest of the apostles, he was nevertheless admitted into as great a share of his Master's confidence as any of them. He was one of those to whom he communicated the most
private transactions of his life: one of those whom he took with him when he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead ; one of those to whom he exhibited a specimen of his divinity, in his transfiguration on the mount; one of those who were present at his confer. ence with Moses and Elias, and heard that voice which declared him the beloved Son of God; and one of those who were companions in his solitude, most retired devotions, and bitter agonies in the garden. Thus of the three who were made the witnesses of their Master's actions, which it was convenient to conceal from the world, St. John constantly enjoyed the privilege of being one : nay, even of these three he seems to have had, in some respects, the preference : witness his lying on his master's bosom at the paschal supper : and even when Peter was desirous of knowing who was the person that should betray their Master, and durst not himself ask the question, he made use of St. John to propose it to their Lord, as the person most likely to succeed in obtaining an answer.
Our apostle endeavoured, in some measure, to an: swer these instances of particular favour, by returns of particular kindness and constancy; for though he had at first deserted his Master on his apprehension, yet he soon recovered himself, and came to seek his saviour, confidently entered the high-priest's hall, followed our Lord through the several particulars of his trial, and at last waited on him at his execution, owning him, as well as being owned by him, in the midst of armed soldiers, and in the thickest crowds of his most invete. rate enemies. Here it was that our great Redeemer committed to his care his sorrowful and disconsolate mother with his dying breath. And certainly the holy Jesus could not have given a more honourable testimony of his particular respect and kindness to St. John, than by leaving his own mother to his trust and care, and substituting him to supply that duty he himself paid her, while he residedinthis vale of sorrow amongst meil.