« ElőzőTovább »
of Oblias, or Ozliam, the defence and fortress of the people ; indicating, that when he was no more, their castles would be dismantled and their strength laid level with the ground : and so indeed it proved; for a few years after his death, the Roman army broke in upon them, and filled the country with blood and slaughter. It is indeed no wonder that the judgments of the Almighty, like a flood, should come rolling in upon a nation, when the sluices are plucked up, and Moses taken away that stood in the gap to oppose them. In short, St. James was the delight of all good men, and in so great favour and estimation with the people, that they used to flock after him, and strive who should touch, if it were only the border of his garment; his very episcopal chair, as Eusebius informs us, wherein he used to sit, was carefully preserved, and had a kind of veneration paid it, even in his time. He was beloved not only by his friends, but also by his enemies, and the Jews themselves mention St. James in their Talmud, as a person who wrought miracles in the name of Jesus his Master ; and the wisest of them considered his martyrdom as the principal cause of all those calamities that soon after flowed in upon them. Josephus in particular reckons the death of St. James, as the action that more immediately roused the divine vengeance, and hastened the universal ruin of that nation by the Roman armies.
This apostle wrote only one epistle, probably not long before his martyrdom, as appears from some passages in it relating to the near approach of the destruction of the Jews : he directed it to the Jewish converts dispersed up and down those eastern countries, to comfort them under their sufferings, and confirm them against error: he saw a great degeneracy of manners coming on, and that the purity of the Christian faith began to be undermined by the doctrines and practices of the Gnostics, who, under pretence of zeal for the legal rites, generally mixed themselves with the Jews : He beheld libertinism flowing in apace, and the way
to heaven made soft and easy, men declaiming against good works as useless and unnecessary, and asserting that a naked belief was sufficient to salvation. These doctrines the apostle opposes, presses the purity, patience, charity, and all the virtues of a good life ; and by undeniable arguments proves, that such a faith alone, which has Christ for its object, and works by love and holiness, can justify us before God, and procure our admittance into the celestial kingdom of eternal glory.
THE LIFE OF ST. PETER,
The Apostle to the Jews. This remarkable apostle and disciple of our blessed Lord and Saviour was born at Bethsaida, a city of Galilee, situate on the banks of the lake of Genesareth, called also the sea of Galilee, from its being situated in that country; and the lake of Tiberias, from that city being built on its banks: but the particular time of this great apostle's birth cannot be known; the evangelists and other writers among the primitive Christians, having been silent with regard to this particular. It is, however, pretty certain, that he was at least ten years older than his Master ; the circumstances of his being married, and in a settled course of life, when he became a follower of the great Messiah, and that authority and respect the gravity of his person procured him
among the rest of the apostles, sufficiently declare this conjecture to be very far from being improbable.
St. Peter being a descendant of Abraham, was circumcised according to the rites of the Mosaic law, and called by his parents, Simon or Simeon, a name at that time common among the Jews: but after his becoming a disciple of the blessed Jesus: the additional title of Cephas was conferred upon him by his Master
to denote the firmness of his faith ; the word Cephas in the Syriac, the common language of the Jews at that time, signifying stone or rock: and hence he is called in Greek Petros, and by us Peter, which appellation bears the same meaning.
The evangelists have also been silent with regard to the parents of St. Peter, except in telling us that his father's name was Jonah, probably a fisherman of Bethsaida : but whatever was his trade he was highly honoured by our blessed Saviour, who chose two of his sons, Andrew and Peter, to be his apostles, and preachers of the glad-tidings of salvation to mankind.
While young, St. Peter was brought up to the trade of fishing on the lake of Bethsaida, famous for different kinds of fish, which excelled all others in the fine ness of the taste. Here he closely followed this trade : but afterwards removed to Capernaum, probably on his being married, where he settled; for we find he had a house there when our Saviour began his public ministry, and there he paid tribute. Nicephorus tells us, that Helen, the mother of Constantine, erected a beautiful church over the ruins of St. Peter's house, in honour of him.
The town of Capernaum was as well situated as Bethsaida, for the carrying on his trade, standing at the influx of the river Jordan into the sea of Galilee, and where he might, with equal advantage, reap the fruits of an honest and industrious diligence. The business of St. Peter was, we confess, both mean and servile: it exposed him to all the injuries of the weather, the tempestuousness of the sea, and the darkness and horror of the night, and all to acquire a mean livelihood for himself and his family; but meanness is no exception to the Almighty ; the poor, if virtuous, are as dear to heaven as the wealthy, the great and the powerful: the beggar and the monarch are equally regarded by the great parent of the human race, with
whom there is no respect of persons; and who is the rewarder of all that diligently seek him.
Here we cannot help observing the wise and admirable methods made use of by Divine Providence, in making choice of such mean and unlikely instruments in planting and propagating the christian religion in the world: men who were destitute of every advantage of education, and brought up to the meanest employments, were chosen to confound the wise, and overturn the learning of the prudent. Such were the persons whom the Almighty sent to propagate the religion of his Son; to silence the wise, the scribe, and the disputer of this world, and to make foolish the wisdom of the earth: for though the Jews required a sign, and the Greeks sought after wisdom; though the preaching of a crucified Saviour was a scandal to the former, and foolishness to the learned latter; yet by this foolishness of preaching, God was pleased to save them that believed; and, in the event, made it appear, that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men; that so the honour of all may redound to himself, that no flesh should glory in his presence, but he that glorieth, should glory in the Lord, to whom alone all honour is due.
We are not told of what sect St. Peter was, before he became a follower of the blessed JESUS; but it is highly probable that he was a disciple of John the Baptist. We know that his brother Andrew was a follower of that great preacher of repentance; and it is very unlikely that he, who was so ready to carry his brother the early tidings of the Messiah, that the Son of Righteousness was already risen in these parts, should not be equally solicitous to bring him under the discipline and influence of John the Baptist, the day-star which appeared to usher in the appearance of the Son of God: besides, Peter's great readiness and curiosity at the first news of Christ's appearing, to come to him and converse with him, shewe
that his expectations had been awakened, and some glimmering rays of hope conveyed to him by the preaching and ministry of John, who was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight, · Whether Peter was or was not a disciple of John the Baptist, he became acquainted with the immaculate Lamb of God in the following manper: The blessed Jesus, having spent thirty years in the solitude of a private life, had lately been baptised by John in Jordan, and there owned by the solemn attestation of heaven to be the Son of God; whereupon he was immediately hurried into the wilderness, and there for forty days maintained a personal contest with the Devil, but having conquered this great enemy of mankind, he returned to Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptising his proselytes, and endeavouring to answer the Jews, who had sent a deputation to him to enquire concerning the new Messiah that appeared among them. To satisfy these curious inquiries of Israel, John faithfully related every thing he knew concerning him, gave him the greatest character, and soon after pointed him out to his disciples; upon which two of them presently followed the great Redeemer of mankind, one of which was Andrew, Simon's brother. They came to him towards evening, and in all probability stayed with him the whole night, during which time Andrew had an opportunity of informing himself, and of satisfying his most anxious scruples.
He did not long conceal the joyful discovery he had made; for early in the morning he hastened to acquaint his brother Simon that he had found the Messiah. It is not enough to be happy alone; religion is a communicative principle, that like the circles in the water, delights to multiply itself, and to diffuse its influences all around, especially on those whom nature has placed nearest to us. • I have (said he with rapture to his brother) found that eminent person so long