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The lives and characters of the twelve apostles of Christ have now been separately considered ; but there are some general reflections upon them, regarded collectively, which naturally suggested themselves during the course that we have been through, and which may not prove uninteresting or uninstructive to those who have accompanied me in the way.
We find, with respect to the circumstances of their external condition, - their country, their fortunes, their education, - that they were such as most readily presented themselves to the search of Jesus, and yet not such, by any means, as we should suppose would have been effective in the accomplishment of his designs.
In the first place, the apostles were all Galileans,-natives or inhabitants of the district of Galilee. Seven of them, Peter and Andrew, James and John, Philip, Bartholomew, and Matthew, are expressly stated in the Gospels to have belonged to the district of Galilee. The same is in the highest degree probablz of all the rest, with the exception, perhaps, of Judas Iscariot. We find that the eleven, after Jesus had ascended into heaven before their sight, were thus spoken to by the two angels: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?” And at the day of Pentecost, when they received the gift of tongues, the people who were present exclaimed, “Behold, are not all these who speak Galileans?” Indeed, so many of the first disciples of Christ were from Galilee, that they were all called Galileans at first, as we learn from contemporary
This country constituted the northern portion of Palestine; and its people, though hardy and brave, were not much respected by the Jews of Jerusalem, who regarded them as illiterate and unpolished, and unworthy of producing a prophet. The Pharisees, reproving Nicodemus for the interest which he expressed in Jesus, said to him: “ Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look ; for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” The very speech of the Galileans was a provincial dialect, and betrayed their remoteness from the capital ; as we have seen was the case with Peter in the palace of Caiaphas. In short they were looked down upon by the more cultivated, and, if I may use the epithet, Attic part of the nation, as a rude, unenlightened, Beotian branch of the common Jewish family. Jesus, though born in Bethlehem, was brought up in Nazareth, which was the most despised town in this most despised province; and therefore, in selecting Galileans to be his apostles, he selected those who were nearest to him, and with whom he was most familiar. And yet what materials were they for constructing and building up a new religion, which was to be the wonder, the beauty and glory, of the earth! How little adapted they seem to be for their lofty destination! They are the last men, these poor Galileans, the very last men, as we should suppose, to confound the learned, to resist the mighty, to convert the world. They do not seem to be made for such a work. There is no fitness in them to be instructors and reformers. Their very birthplace forbids it. The choice of them, therefore, to be the intimate disciples of Christ, and the founders of a new religious system, appears to me to be a mark of the Divine mission of Christ, and the Divine character and origin of Christianity. To my ear the language of it is this: The person who, undertaking to introduce a peculiar and original faith to the world, selected, or, as it would rather appear, took almost carelessly up, his associates and confidential coadjutors, from his own neighborhood, from his own kindred, from the shores of a lake, from the streets of a village, from before his own door-stone, instead of seeking out the learned and the powerful from among the Pharisees and chief men of the nation, must havo 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 pot 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