صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

the learned and the powerful from among the Pharisees and chief men of the nation, must have set out in his work with the assurance that there was a Power and a Wisdom above, which could and would supply every deficiency among his followers; and the event proved that the deficiency was supplied from a Divine, all-sufficient, and only sufficient Source.

These Galileans were also poor. Four of them were certainly fishermen; and others of their number were probably of the same profession. One was a publican, and of the inferior order of publicans.* They not only belonged to an undervalued province, but they were destitute of one of those means by which great ends are usually produced in the world. They were not, indeed, 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.

* It is a habit among many of the Fathers and other writers on these subjects, to assert that Matthew was rich, in order to magnify the sacrifice which he made in leaving all to follow Jesus. But there is not the least ground in Scripture for supposing that he formed an exception to the general poverty, or at any rate very moderate circumstances, of the other apostles. He was able, to be sure, to give a supper, at which some Pharisees were present, who were not likely to honor with their presence the house of a poor man; but he might have done this and yet not have been very rich.

Besides 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 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 classical, 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 men, 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 to 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 honest and scrutinizing. Matthew was modest and sensible. James the Greater was active and aspiring. James the Less

was

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

« السابقةمتابعة »