صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

dervalued province, but they were destitute of one of those means by which great ends are usually produced in the world. They were not, iqdeed, wretchedly destitute. They were above actual want, though they worked for their living; and their dwellings, though humble, appear to have been comfortable. But they were far from being rich; far from possessing any of that influence and consequence which wealth so universally commands. And yet without wealth, they effected what no wealth could have brought to pass ; and became of more consequence than ever invests princes.

Beside these disadvantages, they were also unlearned. I do not mean that they were rudely ignorant, or that they were unacquainted with the sacred literature of their nation; but they were neither deeply versed in lore, nor elegantly accomplished. They could not take a place among the well educated portion of their countrymen. Their manner of expressing themselves, at once betrayed this kind and degree of ignorance to those who were more polished and better instructed. Thus the council of elders and rulers before which Peter and John were arraigned, perceived that those apostles were "unlearned and ignorant men.” And yet they were not so

[ocr errors]

unlearned and ignorant that they did not, both of them, give to the church, and to the world, writings in the Greek language, which, though not exactly elassical, were by no means despicable, even in their style. But their speech, provincial and uncultivated as it was, sent conviction to the hearts of multitudes; and their writings, simple and unpolished as they were, threw a new and heavenly radiance over that dark world, have instructed

ages and generations, and impart more real knowledge on the highest objects of thought, than the greatest philosophers of antiquity had ever been able to impart. . To my mind this is a remarkable fact; and one which does not easily admit of but one explanation. We may sum up

the circumstances of the external condition of the apostles, by saying, that they were what would now be called plain, substantial

in the lower walks of life. They were in a situation, not exceedingly depressed, and yet more remarkable for its humility than otherwise. Their education was only such a one as was usually bestowed on the common people of their nation, and in all probability consisted chiefly in a knowledge of the Scriptures of the Old Testament, which Scriptures they interpreted according the instructions of the Rabbis, and the general expectations, opinions, and prejudices of their countrymen.


With regard to their natural dispositions, talents, and endowments of mind, there was among them the same assortment and variety of genius and character as would generally be found in the same number of men called together in a similar manner. Peter was irascible, impetuous, fervent, generous. John was amiable, affectionate, steadfast. Thomas was honest and scrutinizing. Matthew was modest and sensible. James the Greater was active and aspiring. James the Less was dignified in his sentiments, and deportment. Some were forward, and some were retired. Some were eloquent, and others were silent. All, but one, appear to have been virtuous; and even that one was not without his use. They all, with that single, exception, combined harmoniously in attachment to their Master and devotion to his cause. We may see in this fact, that Christianity was adapted to different dispositions, and received by different minds; that it was not merely the enthusiastic who accepted and supported it; that it was judged by different tests; that it was regarded through various optics; that zeal embraced it; that cool sense approved it; that candor and honesty were convinced by it; that even disappointed avarice could report nothing against it. We see too in this fact, an instance of the truth, which is at once so obvious and so little regarded, that a variety of genius and disposition is in accordance with the designs of Providence in its most important operations with human instruments, as well as in the daily and social business of the world, and that a character is by no means to be despised because its qualities are not shining and striking. There are different · parts to be performed, requiring different powers and capacities; and he who achieves his part, though it be a silent and undistinguished one, is a good servant.

We are told much, in the writings of the New Testament, of the words and actions of Simon Peter ; but little or nothing of those of Simon Zelotes and Bartholomew; and yet these latter may

have accomplished tasks which were necessary to the progress of the great work, but which would not have suited the peculiar capacity of Peter. They may have reached minds which he could not touch; they may have performed duties, subordinate indeed, but still necessary, such as he was not gifted to perform. Each apostle takes his own place, and stands easily and naturally in it; neither stretching after what was above, nor

contemning what was below him. In this instance, as well as in others, we may derive a lesson from them.

In another point of view, the company of the apostles presents us with a spectacle, which, though it may not be a very instructive, is certainly a pleasing one. Within their common fraternity there were no less than three distinct bands of natural brethren. Peter and Andrew were brothers; John and James the Greater were brothers; and so also were James the Less, Jude or Thaddeus, and Simon Zelotes. With the ties of a common faith, of a common toil, and a common danger, were thus beautifully blended the ties of consanguinity and domestic affection; and a texture of harmonious coloring was completed in this companionship, such as is seldom woven on earth. The three brethren last named were also near relations of Jesus himself. The reflections which are readily suggested by this circumstance, are, that our Saviour was beloved at home as well as abroad; and that the familiarity of relationship did not impair the respect in which he was held as a master and teacher. also in this fact, another cause of his love for his disciples, and of their love for him; a cause which is far from diminishing our reverence for

We see

« السابقةمتابعة »