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would naturally induce an Apostle to think of coming hither; that the passage either from the Persian Gulf, or the Red Sea, is neither long nor difficult, and was then extremely common; and that it may be, therefore, as readily believed that St. Thomas was slain at Meilapoor, as that St. Paul was beheaded at Rome, or that Leonidas fell at Thermopylæ. Under these feelings, I left the spot behind with regret, and shall visit it if I return to Madras, with a reverent, though, I hope, not a superstitious interest and curiosity.
"The larger Mount, as it is called, of St. Thomas, is a much more striking spot, being an insulated cliff of granite, with an old church on the summit, the property of those Armenians who are united to the church of Rome. It is also dedicated to St. Thomas, but (what greatly proves the authenticity of its rival) none of the sects of Christians or Hindoos consider it as having been in any remarkable manner graced by his presence or burial. It is a picturesque little building, and commands a fine view."
A legend is quoted by Cave from Gregory of Tours, concerning the tomb of this Apostle at Malipur, which, though deserving of no more credit than other legends of the same class, is pleasing to the imagination. A lamp, says the
legend, hangs before his tomb, which burns perpetually, needing no oil, and undisturbed by the wind or any accident whatever. Possibly a gaseous fountain might once have existed there, which would be a sufficient origin for the story; or some deception may have been practised by the priests.
The 21st of December is St. Thomas's day in the Western Calendar.
MATTHEW places himself the eighth on his list, and styles himself "the Publican." This avowal of his profession is at once a proof of his humility and his good sense. He had the meekness to set himself down exactly what he was, notwithstanding the contempt which the confession might bring upon him; and he had the wisdom to perceive that there was no rank or occupation in life, however low, which could change the nature of true worth, or really disgrace an honest and virtuous man.
To the Jews, above all other people, publican was an odious name. There is a use of this word
among us, a low and improper use, which has nothing to do with its true signification and its Scripture sense; for a publican does not mean, in the Gospels, an innkeeper, but a taxgatherer, or a receiver of the tribute imposed by government. The Romans employed these receivers of tribute, or publicans, in all their provinces, and among
the rest, in Judea. Now, to pay tribute was not only a constant acknowledgment and badge of subjection and servitude, but to the Jews it was something more galling still, because it wounded their religious as well as their political pride. It was a thought of pure, unmitigated bitterness, that the people of God should thus pass periodically under the hated yoke of idolaters, and, as they would call them in their haughty exclusiveness, barbarians. The office itself being thus detestable, it may be conceived how those persons must have been looked upon who held and exercised it.
There were two orders, however, among the publicans; the receivers general, who had deputies under them, and these deputies themselves. The former were usually selected from the best classes of society; but the latter were reckoned ignoble and contemptible, even by the Gentiles, and were, as a body, vulgar, rapacious, and unmerciful. Some one asked Theocritus, which was the most cruel of all beasts? and he answered, "Among the beasts of the wilderness, the bear and the lion; among the beasts of the city, the publican and the parasite." Of the higher order of publicans at Jerusalem, one is probably mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, by the name of
Zacchæus, who is there said to be "the chief among the publicans," and a rich man. Of the lower order, were those who are so frequently classed in the Scriptures with sinners; and of this order was Matthew. They were all, high and low, for the reasons just given, regarded with abhorrence by the Jews, and treated as a profane and outcast set of people. "Let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican," is a phrase which expresses strongly the universal ban which was suspended over them. We are told that though a publican might be a Jew, he was hardly recognised as such by his countrymen; that he was not allowed to enter the temple; nor give testimony in courts of justice; that the gifts, even, which his devotion might prompt him to offer, were rejected from the altar of Jehovah, as unclean and abominable.
Bearing these things in mind, we can now estimate the self-denial of the apostle, who, with a firm pen, could write himself down, " Matthew, the Publican."
In the second chapter of Mark, he is said to be the son of Alpheus; but whether this Alpheus is the same with the father of James the Less, or another individual, is uncertain. His place of residence was in Capernaum, or somewhere near