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النشر الإلكتروني

We see

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 him, or our interest in them. They were not strangers to each other; they were not brought together merely by the attractions of sympathy, or the demands of a great work. They were not countrymen only; they were neighbors, partners, early acquaintances; they were more, for they were kinsmen, with the mutual attachments of kindred ; and they go about on their labors before us, a more social, united, confidential, and interesting group, than if there had been no family bonds to strengthen and adorn their union.

Let us next view, the apostles as authors, and as subjects of history. I should wonder at the state of that man's affections who could read the Gospels, two of which were written by apostles, without being struck by the exceeding modesty and self-forgetfulness of the disciples, and their

absorbing attention to one individual, their venerated and beloved Master. There are no vaunts in those sacred histories; no instances of open or disguised egotism. When the writer speaks of his fellow-disciples, he relates with the utmost simplicity their faults, and prejudices, and want of faith, as well as the better parts of their characters. And he speaks of his Master, too, with equal simplicity, but with how much greater frequency and devotion! He brings every other person, every other thing, he brings himself, under perfect subordination to this main subject of his narrative. ,

He does this, not artfully and intentionally, but unavoidably; from feeling, from impulse, from the conviction that there is but one individual of whom he is giving an account; and if others are mentioned, they are mentioned because they are in some manner connected with that person. If Jesus had occasion to praise one of his disciples, the evangelist records the fact without envy; if that disciple, or any other one is rebuked, he relates it without evasion or excuse. He keeps himself to the sayings and actions of his Master, as to his chief concern. He indulges in no inferences, no moral reflections, no expression of his own views or feelings; he writes pure history, simple narrative; and on all occasions he tells, without reserve and without suspicion, the plain truth; we see and feel that he does ; there is an honesty about every relation which cannot be mistaken or suspected. And we see and feel, too, that the chief personage of the history is not brought out into such entire relief, into such a concentration of light, by any effort or design on the part of the writer, but only and wholly on account of the unapproached sublimity and intrinsic superiority of the character itself.

There is one other circumstance in the lives of the apostles which I am bound to notice for the sake of its singularity and importance; and then I will leave them to the meditations and further inquiries of my readers. I have several times had occasion to speak of the national prejudices of these men, and the difficulty which they had to comprehend the entire spirituality of their Master's system and kingdom, and to admit into their associations with the Jewish Messiah and Saviour the ideas of poverty, lowliness, suffering, and death. Attached as they were to him by all the ties which we have enumerated, we see that when he was actually apprehended by his enemies, they all forsook him and fied; that they did not return to him; and that on the mount where he was crucified there was but one of them who appeared to witness the death of their Master and kinsman, and the extinction of all their hopes. The event was one for which they were wholly unprepared. It confounded them. Their preconceived opinions were so strong, that when Jesus had before spoken to them of his death, they shut up their ears and their eyes, they would not understand him. We do not find a single hint in the Gospels that they ever did understand him. The event itself was a blow which at once enlightened and convinced them, and scattered them abroad also, like sheep without a shepherd. This is one scene.

And now let us behold another, which immediately succeeds it. Not a great many days elapse when we find these very men, disheartened, disappointed, terrified, and dispersed as they had been, all gathered together again with one accord, fully recovered from all their depression, and with a settled resolution stamped on all their demeanor, which never marked them before, even while their Master was with them, to lead, combine, and encourage them. The catalogue of their names is full, with one vacancy only, which they immediately supply. They begin to preach the doctrines of a crucified Saviour, and we hear no more of their earthly notions of his kingdom. Their crude ideas and temporal hopes have, in a few days, vanished away. They preach Christianity, simply and purely. They gather to themselves thousands of converts. They are persecuted, imprisoned,

threatened; they behold one of their number soon cut off with the sword; they are surrounded by enemies and temptations; and yet they never hesitate nor falter; no, not the weakest of them; there is not a single defection from their reunited brotherhood. They go through country after country, and toil after toil, laying down their lives, one after another, for the holy truth, and they leave disciples behind them everywhere, to teach, and dare, and suffer, and do, and die, as they did.

Now what is the cause of all this, and how is it to be accounted for? Unbelievers may have many explanations to give, and they may be ingenious ones. I have but one, and it is a simple

It is, that their crucified Master rose from the dead as they have told us he did ; that he instructed them as they have told us he did; and that the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, was sent from the Father, according to his promise, to enlighten and sustain them. In short, I consider the conduct of the apostles, at and after the death of Jesus, as perhaps the strongest proof of the reality of his glorious resurrection. If he rose from the dead and appeared to them, and instructed and confirmed them, I can account for the sudden change in their characters, and for their subsequent knowledge and perseverance and boldness and success. If he rose not from

one.

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