صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

tially again amidst the moral darkness which surrounded them.

One other purpose, which the connection of the twelve disciples with our Saviour was fitted to answer, was, the qualification which it conferred on them for recording his deeds and words, and preserving to posterity the invaluable memorial. 1 know not how we, of this age, could have trusted implicitly to accounts of the origin and true principles of the Christian religion, which tradition alone might have brought down to us; nor is it easily conceivable how any persons could have been better prepared to render an authentic, trustworthy, and interesting history of our faith, than were those who accompanied Jesus through the several scenes of his ministry, and immediately succeeded him in publishing the Gospel. Accordingly, we find that two out of the four relations of our Saviour's life and death were written by two of the twelve disciples; and that the greater part of the remaining books of the New Testament were likewise composed by the original apostles, and by that distinguished individual whose apostleship was bestowed on him directly and miraculously from Heaven. It is true, that we are obliged to learn from tradition who the writers were of several of the sacred books; but a few facts of this simple nature might securely be trusted to its keeping, though at the same time it would be an

improper depository and an unsafe vehicle for the numerous occurrences, sentiments, and precepts which constitute the Christian system. It is a self-evident proposition, that the chosen companions of Jesus, having witnessed his miracles, having been instructed in his religion, and made intimately acquainted with his character, were qualified in the best manner to convert their experience into history, and to transmit to the latest ages an indubitable standard of Christian truth.

Such appear to be our Saviour's motives, as far as we are authorized to judge of them, in nominating his twelve disciples. It becomes a matter of no inconsiderable interest to us to know some. thing of the history, to ascertain something of the character, of those who were so peculiarly and so highly distinguished.

Who were those, in the first place, whom the Saviour of men, the Prince of Peace, the Son of God, chose out of the whole world, to be his companions, his friends, his pupils, his witnesses, his historians, his apostles ? What were their qualities? How were they recommended to the notice of Jesus? What were their occupations, their condition, education, principles ? It was a remarkable station which they were called upon to hold, — so near the person, so high in the confidence, of the most exalted being who ever appeared on our earth. As disciples ourselves,

though it may be unworthy of the name, and as distant from them in merit as we are in time, yet as professed disciples of that heavenly Master, we are naturally curious to learn more than simply the names of our favored predecessors. We would make ourselves acquainted with those men who saw, and heard, and touched, and lived and conversed with, that holy prophet of God, for whom we feel a reverence only inferior to that which we entertain toward Him who sent him.

And who were those, we would ask, in the second place, who were appointed by Jesus Christ to publish his religion, and enabled by the assistance of the Holy Spirit of God to publish it successfully? Who were those, who, in obedience to their Master, went out into all nations, teaching, converting, and baptizing, and planting the parent churches of our faith in learned Greece, and lordly Rome, and benighted Africa, and among those rude people of the North from whom we ourselves are descended ? It was no mean work in which they were employed. No revolution of recorded time can equal it in glory; for thrones were subjected to its power, and the poor and humble of the earth were raised by it to an elevation far higher than thrones. They, like their Lord, were invested with a control over the operations of nature; and, more than that, they, like him, and by his authority, and with his instruction, founded an empire, the most broad and lasting which has ever existed, over the human mind.

Who were they? As Christians, as subjects of that empire, as men amazed, at the same time that we are rejoiced, at what we have heard and what we be. hold, we are impelled to inquire who they were who established a dominion which has already covered the civilized world, and is apparently going on, with ever-encroaching steps, to spread itself over the whole earth. If the lives of any men are interesting, theirs must be peculiarly so. They are the great reformers, the great conquerors, whose empire has been continually increasing and strengthening, while the houses and dynasties of heroes and kings have risen, and flourished, and passed away into forgetfulness and ruin; the only empire which has grown more vigorous and more hopeful with age, because the mind and the heart and the destiny of man, and the good providence of God, are joined to sur port and perpetuate it. Who were these men ?

No elaborate biography, no studied panegyric, has portrayed to us the lives and characters of the apostles of Christ. In their own condensed and simple writings, and in the quite as simple book of their Acts, composed by one of their associates, we must glean such sketches of them as are to be found in connection with the accounts of their Master and the history of their religion ; for of themselves, as individuals, they seldom think of speaking ; absorbed in their duty and devoted to their great work, the idea of self-importance or personal fame never seems to have entered their minds. We shall not, however, esteem them the less because they were faithful to their calling, and sought not the praise and honor of men, and postponed their own glory to the glory of God. And although our just curiosity may not be gratified by a full and detailed portraiture of these eminent men, who remembered their work, and forgot themselves, yet we shall meet with notices enough in the Scriptures of the New Testament to enable us to form for ourselves an outline at least of some of their lives and characters. Of some of them we shall find more abundant accounts than of others; for among them, as well as among mankind in general, there was undoubtedly a diversity of power, which caused some of them to stand out in the foreground of action, and others to remain comparatively in shade; though all of them might have been zealous, useful, and efficient, and most probably were so.

Though the sacred writings themselves are the only sources of knowledge on this subject to which we may give implicit credence, yet from other early documents we may obtain some narratives of the latter days of the apostles which are worthy of a good degree of faith. Making

« السابقةمتابعة »