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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
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 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 inten tionally, 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 ;