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The Roman Church celebrates the martyrdom of John the Baptist on the 29th of August. But the day on which he is especially commemorated is the 24th of June, which is kept as the day of his nativity; it being the only nativity, besides that of our Saviour, which that Church observes. The Apostles and other saints bore witness to the truth more especially by their deaths, but John more especially by his birth, with its concomitants. A kind of perpetual commentary is thus afforded on the declaration of the angel, that “many shall rejoice in his birth.” And as our Lord's nativity is observed on the 25th of December, and he was about six months younger than John, the 24th of June is properly selected as the birth-day of the latter. Here again a comment of the same poetical character, on another text, has sometimes been noticed. The days, which begin to lengthen at the first of those dates and to grow shorter at the last, point to that saying of the Baptist already quoted
“ He must increase, but I must decrease.”
But leaving these somewhat fanciful allusions, we cannot fail to observe that the life of the Baptist, setting forth so clearly and prominently the gravity, disinterestedness, courage, and purity of his character, is a worthy introduction
to the Lives of that “ glorious company of the Apostles," who praised God as he did, in life and death, who surround the Lamb in heaven as they did on earth, and whose example enforces that of the forerunner, which so earnestly exhorts us to
constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake." Oh, for more of that primitive faith and virtue! for more witnesses, more disciples !
“ Where is the lore the Baptist taught,
The soul unswerving and the fearless tongue ?
Who counts it gain
His light should wane,
Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Teacher sent from God, soon after he commenced his ministry, selected twelve men to be his immediate followers and confidential disciples. “ Now the names of the twelve apostles are these ; the first, SIMON who is called PETER, and ANDREW his brother; James the son of ZEBEDEE, and John his brother; PHILIP, and BARTHOLOMEW; THOMAS, and MATTHEW the Publican; James the son of ALPHEUS, and LEBBEUS, whose surname was THADDEUS; SIMON the Canaanite, and JUDAS ISCARIOT, who also betrayed him.” This list of the apostles is taken from the Gospel of Matthew, who was himself one of them. We are also
presented with a similar catalogue in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, and in the book of Acts.*
Why the exact number of twelve was appointed, it is more difficult than important to determine. Perhaps it was done in compliance with the attachment of the Jews to that number. Perhaps it was with a more particular reference to the number of the sons of Jacob, and the tribes of which they were the progenitors and founders; “ye also,” says Jesus, “shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Under the new dispensation, ye twelve, whom I have chosen, shall exercise the same spiritual authority and rule, as did the twelve patriarchs under the old dispensation. Ye shall be regarded
* Matthew's list is from Chap. x. 2, 3, 4. For facility of reference, the three remaining lists of the twelve are here subjoined.
- And Simon he surnamed Peter; and James the son of Zebedee; and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The Sons of Thunder; and Andrew; and Philip; and Bartholomew; and Matthew; and Thomas ; and James the son of Alpheus; and Thaddeus; and Simon the Canaanite ; and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.” Mark, iii. 16, 17, 18, 19.
“ Simon, whom he also named Peter; and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alpheus, and Simon called Zelotes; and Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, who also was the traitor." Luke, vi. 14, 15, 16.
“ Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.” Acts, i. 13.
with the same religious respect. Ye shall give laws and ordinances to my people.
The motives which induced the Master to call to himself a select company of disciples, seem to be more obvious. It was proper and even necessary, that he should have some followers in whom he might particularly confide, and who should be always near him and about him.
It was needful, in the first place, that he should be thus attended, in order that the wonders, which he worked in confirmation of the divinity of his mission, should be nearly inspected and credibly attested. I deem it one of the strongest evidences of the truth of our Saviour's miracles, that they were performed, not only in sight of the multitude, but of a select company, who were too familiar with him to be deceived themselves, and too honest to join with him in deceiving others. Being brought into the midst of his operations, they were qualified to judge of their reality and integrity, and therefore qualified to report them to the world with all the warmth of conviction, and all the directness, particularity, and authority of constant experience and repeated vision. A changing crowd, never composed perhaps on any two occasions of the same materials, might have been mistaken; but a band of twelve