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The fifth named on Matthew's catalogue of the apostles is Philip. He was a native of Bethsaida, and consequently a townsman of the four partners, whose histories I have already told. “ Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.” We have no certain intelligence of his parentage or condition, though he was probably in the same rank of life with Peter and Andrew, James and John, and perhaps of the same profession.
The day after Peter and Andrew had become disciples of Christ, we read that “ Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me." Though Peter and Andrew were the first who
appear to have attended on the instructions of Jesus, and to have been particularly noticed by him, and are therefore termed his first disciples - and though Andrew is styled Protocletos, as having been the first, whose name we know, who was invited to visit him and converse with him — it is certain that the distinction belongs to Philip of having been the first who received that express and authoritative call to the apostleship,
“ Follow me.” We find this account in the latter portion of the first chapter of John's Gospel. And we then read, further, that “ Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” His conduct in this instance is like that of Andrew; as he manifested the same readiness to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, and the same zeal to make known his discovery to others.
This faith and zeal, however, do not continue to be, if we may judge from what little the Gospels relate of Philip, so firm and ardent afterwards as they seem to have been at first. When Jesus, in order to prove him, asked him where bread enough could be bought to feed the five thousand who were gathered together on the mountain, Philip, either not remembering the miraculous power of his Master, or not yet fully convinced of its reality, entered into a calculation, and returned, for answer, that two hundred pennyworth of bread would not be sufficient to supply every one with a little. And at the last supper, when our
Lord was discoursing so divinely to his disciples, and had said to them that if they had known him properly, they would have known his Father, whom very soon they would both know and see, Philip was so entirely unconscious of his meaning, and so blind, notwithstanding his long intimacy with Jesus, so blind to the presence and agency of God in this, his beloved Son, as to say to his Master, “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” Grieved at his dulness and insensibility, Jesus returns that sadly reproachful answer, “ Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself; but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” As if he had said, Is it not evident to you that the power which
you have seen me exert, is more than human power ? that the wisdom which you have so long been hearing from my lips, is more than human wisdom ? that the Father must have been with me, and in me, all this time, or I could not have thus acted and spoken? How can you then, who have been one of my constant companions, how can you say, Show us the Father ? As a Jew, you certainly do not expect to see God in person ; and how can you behold a brighter manifestation of his image and attributes, than that which
you have so long beheld in me? You do not know me, Philip, neither me nor my Father.
This instance of the apostle's incredulity and slowness of apprehension, does not prove that he was more incredulous and dull than his brethren; it only shows how small the impression was which the extraordinary instructions and actions of Jes sus had as yet produced on the whole twelve. They entered into his service with the Jewish ideas of a Messiah; and now, when he was just about to leave them, they were almost as ignorant of the spirituality of his kingdom, as when they first joined themselves to him.
Nothing further is said in the sacred histories to assist us in elucidating Philip's character. The book of Acts relates nothing concerning him; for we must not confound Philip the Apostle, with Philip the Deacon, or Philip the Evangelist, both of whom are there mentioned. The best ancient testimony specifies Scythia as the principal scene of his apostolical labors; from which country he came at last into Phrygia, and dwelt in Hierapolis, the chief city in the western part of that province.* There he preached the Gospel of his Master, and planted the seeds of faith in the midst of idolatry; and it is said by some, that it was by effecting the destruction of an object of superstitious worship, that he incurred the hatred and persecution of a part of the inhabitants, who caused him to be imprisoned and severely scourged, and then hung by the neck to a pillar. By others, however, he is said to have died a natural death.
By a concurrence of authorities, Philip is stated to have been a married man, and to have had several daughters.
The festival of this apostle, according to the Calendar of the Western Church, is on the first
* This city is mentioned by Paul, in his epistle to the Colossians, iv. 13. It was near to Colosse and Laodicea, and had probably been visited by Paul.