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the word of God increasedy so much, that the malice of the unbelieving Jews was excited against Stephen. There were synagogues or colleges established at Jerusalem, not only for expounding the law and for prayer, but for the instruction of youth. These colleges, being sometimes built by Jews who were foreigners, were called after the names of the respective countries of those who built them. Certain members of these synagogues were excited to oppose and dispute with St. Stephen, but not being able to resist the spirit and the wisdom with which he spake, they suborned false witnesses to depose against him, that they had heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God; that he had threatened the destruction of the temple, and the abolition of that religion which had been established by Moses, and by God himself.
Q. What was the substance of the defence which St. Stephen made against the accusation of the Jews?
A. In answer to the accusation of the Jews, that he was guilty of blasphemy, in setting the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth above the Mosaic law, which was established by God, St. Stephen endeavoured to prove that the Mosaic rites and economy were not designed to be of essential and permanent obligation. He accordingly told them, that if they would look back to their forefather Abraham, they would find that God chose him to be a father of the faithful when he lived among idolatrous nations, and that he served God acceptably, without those external rites upon which they laid so great stress; that when God entered into covenant with him, no ceremony was appointed but that of circumcision; and that, by this rite, the succeeding patriarchs worshipped God for several ages. And when Moses was appointed by God to conduct their forefathers out of the house of bondage, he signified, that the law which he imposed upon them, should be superseded by another law, by foretelling, that God would raise up to them a prophet like unto him, and that they should hear him. By these and similar arguments, he endeavoured to prove to them that there could not be that necessity for those Mosaic rites which they pretended; that these rites were designed to last but for a time; and that it was that refractory humour which they inherited from their forefathers, who had persecuted and slain those prophets who foretold the coming of the Messiah, which led
them to resist the Holy Ghost, and to betray and murder that just One, who came to fulfil that law for which they pretended so great regard.
Q. How did the judges bear his defence?
A. The judges expressed the greatest rage and fury, their consciences being stung with the truths which St. Stephen delivered. But, regardless of their resentment, he fixed his eyes and thoughts upon heaven: and when, being full of the Holy Ghost, he declared that he saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, his adversaries asserted that he was a blasphemer, and resolved upon his death, without any further process.
Q. How did St. Stephen suffer martyrdom ?
A. St. Stephen was stoned to death, which was one of the punishments inflicted by the Jews for great and enormous crimes. The witnesses, whose hands were to be first upon him, putting off, according to custom, their upper garments, laid them down at Saul's feet;d while the holy saint was upon his knees, recommending his soul to God, and praying for his murderers, that the guilt of his death might not be laid to their charge. In this manner, copying the example of his blessed Master, whom he implored to receive his spirit, this holy martyr fell asleep.
Q. What may we learn from the observation of this festival?
A. St. Stephen was calm and resigned under the greatest sufferings, looking steadfastly to the glory prepared for him. Hence we may learn, that a firm belief and persuasion of another life, is the great support of a good man under the sufferings of the present. St. Stephen, by the animating succours of the Holy Ghost, triumphantly suffered martyrdom. Hence we may learn, that when malice and opposition to the truth lead men to persecute the faithful servants of God, he will graciously assist his suffering people with extraordinary communications of his grace. St. Stephen meekly, yet resolutely proclaimed and defended the divine religion of his Master. Hence we should learn, that no opposition or calumny from bad men, should discourage us from doing all the good in our power: and that we should, on all proper occasions, defend, and seek to promote the honour of God with courage and resolution, and yet with that patience and moderation which best become the adva
Acts vii. 56.
a Acts vii. 51.
b Acts vii. 52.
e Acts vii. 60.
cates of truth. And, finally, the holy charity of this blessed martyr, in praying, after the example of his divine Master, for his persecutors and murderers, should teach us that we must love our enemies, bless them that curse us, pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us; thus fulfilling the perfection of Christian love, and proving ourselves, like St. Stephen, to be true disciples of the blessed Jesus.
Q. Explain wherein the love of our enemies, to which we are excited by the example of St. Stephen, as well as of our blessed Lord, consists.
A. The love of enemies, a duty peculiar to the Christian institution, consists in a sincere disposition to promote their welfare and happiness, and in being ready, upon proper occasions, to give real testimony of this disposition. We should accordingly honour them for their virtues, and pity them for their miseries; we should relieve their wants, conceal their defects, and vindicate their injured reputation; we should pray for them, and be always ready to take such steps as will most probably tend to remove their enmity.
Q. What obligations do we lie under to the performance of this duty?
A. The express commands of our Saviour, the Author of our holy religion, require from us the forgiveness of our enemies. Christ has made forgiveness of injuries the condition, without which we can expect no pardon of our sins from him ; and has, in his own person, set the most exalted example of this virtue.
Q. Wherein consist the reasonableness and excellency of this duty?
4. This duty tends to the comfort and happiness of our lives-patience and forgiveness affording a lasting and solid pleasure it prevents the agitation and uneasiness which always accompany the indulgence of violent passion, and prevents many troubles and inconveniences which arise from a malicious and revengeful temper. To do kindnesses, not only where there are neither the claims of merit and obligation, but even in opposition to affront and injury, is the perfection of goodness; to overcome resentment, is an argument of a great mind, the most valuable and exalted conquest that we can obtain; and, finally, the practice of this duty assimilates us to God himself, who does good to the unthankful and the evil.
f Matt. v. 44.
g Matt. vi. 14, 15.
h Prov. xvi. 32.
ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST,
Q. WHAT have you to observe in regard to the Evan
gelist St. John ?
A. St. John was a Galilean, the son of Zebedee and Salome, younger brother to St. James, with whom he was brought up in the trade of fishing, and with whom he was called to be a disciple and an apostle of our Saviour. He is thought to be far the youngest of all the apostles, being thirty years old when he was first called to that dignity. As he died about an hundred years old, in the third year of Trajan, he must have lived above seventy years after our Saviour's sufferings, and consequently must have been very young when called to the apostleship.
Q. What have you to remark concerning the epistle and gospel for the day?
A. The epistle and gospel for this day, are both taken out of the writings of St. John. The epistle contains St. John's testimony of Christ, and the gospel declares Christ's testimony of St. John. The gospel seems applicable to the day itself; the epistle to the day, being attendant upon the preceding more solemn festival of Christmas.
Q. What new name did St. John receive from our Saviour?
A. He and his brother James were styled by Christ, Boanerges, that is, the Sons of Thunder. This surname is thought more especially to be attributed to St. John, because he so clearly taught the divinity of Jesus Christ, and delivered the mysteries of the Gospel in a more sublime and profound strain than the other evangelists.
Q. What particular marks did St. John receive of our Saviour's regard?
A. He was one of the three disciples whom our Saviour admitted to the more private transactions of his life: he was the disciple whom, it is said, Jesus loved; who lay in his bosom at the paschal supper; and to whom, as his dearest
j Mark iii. 17.
i Matt. iv. 21.
friend, our Lord, when he was leaving the world, committed the care of the blessed Mary his mother.
Q. What may we learn from the particular attachment which our Saviour discovered for this apostle?
A. From the particular attachment of Christ to the apostle St. John, we may learn, that the virtue of friendship is not incompatible with the most sincere and ardent love to mankind; since the blessed Jesus himself, whose soul was inflamed by divine benevolence and charity, distinguished particular persons by peculiar marks of affection.
Q. In what manner did St. John express his sensibility to the particular affection which Christ manifested for him? A. Animated by lively affection for his blessed Master, this disciple quickly resented the affront which the Samaritans cast on the Saviour. That he might have a nearer enjoyment of his blessed Lord, he expressed a desire to sit on his right hand, in his kingdom of glory. Although, when Christ was apprehended, he fled with the rest of the disciples, his affection soon overcame the suggestions of base and selfish fear. He boldly entered the high priest's hall, where his Master was arraigned; he resolutely followed the Saviour through the several degrading stages of his unjust trial and condemnation; even in the dark and dismaying hour of the crucifixion, affection hurried him to the cross, to witness and to cheer the last moments of his suffering Master; and receiving, as the dying and affectionate legacy of his Lord, the blessed Mary, the mother of Jesus, he took her to his own home, and ever treated her with dutiful and honourable regard.
Q. Where did St. John exercise his apostolic office?
A. St. John exercised his apostolic office in the East, principally in Asia,k where he founded the churches of Smyrna, Pergamus, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea. His chief place of residence was Ephesus; of which church, after the death of Timothy the bishop, he took charge towards the close of his life.
Q. What treatment did St. John receive from the emperor Domitian ?
A. At the command of the emperor Domitian, to whom he had been represented as an impious subverter of the religion of the empire, St. John was sent, by the proconsul of Asia, bound to Rome; where he was cast into a caldron of
k Euseb. lib, iii. c. 1.