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Though not the first Christian martyr,
James was the first of the apostles who suffered martyrdom; the first among the twelve, who, in fulfilment of that solemn prediction, was called to drink of the cup and be baptized with the baptism of their Master ; the first who manifested to the world that it was beyond the power of death itself to shake their fidelity to him.* If he was not spared to labor much for the church, he was soon permitted to edify it by his sufferings, and was called kindly and early to his reward in heaven,
He is the James who is called by the Spaniards St. James of Compostella, and honored as their patron Saint. They receive with general faith a wild and singular legend, which gives an account of the manner in which they became possessed of his remains. According to this story, the apostles at Jerusalem sent the body in a vessel with Ctesiphon, whom they ordained bishop of Spain. The vessel went directly to a port in
the third slew James, and intended to have slain Peter. These circumstances are commemorated in the following Latin couplet.
Herodes Magnus pueros, Antipa Joannem,
Teque, Jacobe, Agrippa necat, Petrum et capit idem. * He is therefore called ihe Apostolic Protomartyr ; Stephen being the Protomartyr, or first martyr, of the whole Christian church.
that kingdom, without the assistance of oars or pilot, guided only by its holy, though lifeless burthen, which, on its arrival, was miraculously taken away
and buried, and after a great many wonders, was at last translated to Compostella,* where it still abides, the object of constant pilgrimage, and the worker of countless miracles. Cave, after giving this legend rather more at length, observes ; “ This is the sum of the account, call it romance or history, which I do not desire to impose any further upon the reader's faith than he shall find himself disposed to believe it.” It is a pity that such stories as this, should be connected with the names of the holy apostles. It would be more a pity, however, if it were more difficult to separate legends from history, and falsehood from truth.
Ferdinand II. of Spain instituted a military order in honor of this apostle. His festival is on the 26th of July.
* It is said by some, that this place was first called Ad Jacobum Apostolum; then Giacomo Postolo; then, by contraction, Compostella.
We now come to John, the brother of James the elder, and the last named, though certainly not the last in merit, of those four friends and partners, the fishermen of Bethsaida. The particulars of his call to be an apostle of Christ, have already been related, together with some other circumstances respecting him, in the lives of Peter and James. We have seen that he ardently loved his Master; that he was distinguished by that Master's peculiar regard; and that, although he was sometimes betrayed into unworthy expressions of ambition and anger, for which he was justly reprimanded, his disposition was remarkably amiable, gentle, and affectionate.
There is not much told of him, individually, till towards the closing scenes of our Saviour's ministry and life. At the last supper, which he and Peter had been sent to prepare, we are told that “ there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of
his disciples whom Jesus loved.” This disciple was John himself; who was so fond of the distinction which his Master's attachment conferred on him, or, to speak more properly, was so gratefully sensible of the value of the attachment itself, that he continually speaks of himself, in his history, as the disciple whom Jesus loved; a title which he surely would not have assumed, unless it had been really conferred on him. His place at the supper is an evidence that he was high in the favor of Jesus. He was leaning or lying on his bosom; that is, he was the next below him, and as it was the custom of the ancients to recline at their meals, his head was brought in contact with his Master's breast; a situation which used always to be reserved by the host at an entertainment, for the person whom he most honored or esteemed. It was while he was thus leaning, that Simon Peter beckoned to him that he should ask of Jesus who it was who should betray him. John did as he was requested, and Jesus showed him who the traitor was by giving Judas a sop. All this seems to have been done in private, and apart from the knowledge of the other disciples, and proves the great measure of condescension and confidence which was exercised by the Master toward this his favorite follower.
After Jesus was betrayed and seized, John is supposed to have been that other disciple, who went with Peter to the palace of the high priest, and gained him admittance there by means of his acquaintance with that dignitary.* However this may be, he was the only one of the twelve who had the fortitude to attend his beloved Master to the cross. How touchingly is it manifested on this awful occasion, that the softest natures are often the noblest and most fearless too; and that those which are apparently the most daring and masculine, may yet shrink away in the time of peril and distress. Who, in that hour of darkness darkness in the heavens and in the hearts of men ; who, in that hour of abandon
*“ That disciple was known unto the high priest.” John xviii. 15. The early writers busy themselves to find out in what manner John became acquainted with Caiaphas. Jerome says that he belonged to some order of nobility; which, however, seems to be very inconsistent with the occupation of his father. Nicephorus relates, that he sold his paternal estate in Galilee to the high priest, and with the money purchased a fair house in Jerusalem, and so became intimate with him. These stories seem to me, like many other similar ones, to prove two things; one, that the early Christian writers were exceedingly anxious to explain the slightest hints in the gospel histories; the other, that they were much too apt to write down the first report which came to their ears, glad to catch something, and not careful to sift the truth, or, rather, too ready to sacrifice truth to the gratification of a minute and inordinate, though not perhaps absolutely idle, curiosity. Hence the contradictory statements with which their works are full.