صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

concluded it was an angel, or some messenger sent to them from the courts of heaven: but on opening the door, they were convinced of their mistake, finding that it was Peter himself, who briefly told how he was delivered, and, desired them to inform his brethren of his being set at liberty, and retired from them.

The officers came in the morning from Herod to the prison, with orders to bring Peter out to the people, who were gathered together to behold his execution but when they came to the prison, the keepers informed them, that the apostle had made his escape; which so exasperated Herod, that he commanded those to be put to death who were intrusted with the care of the prisoner.

After this miraculous deliverance of St. Peter, a controversy arose between the Jewish and Gentile converts, with regard to the observation of the Mosaic law, a dispute which gave great uneasiness to the minds of many persons; the Jews zealously contending, that it was absolutely neces sary to salvation to be circumcised, and observe the precepts of the ceremonial law, as well as those of the gospel. To compose this difference, it was thought necessary to summons a general council of the apostles and brethren to meet at Jerusalem. This was accordingly done, and the case thoroughly debated. ry

At last Peter stood up and declared, that God having chosen him out of all the apostles to be a preacher of the gospel, not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles, God who was best able to Judge of the hearts of men had borne witness to them, that they were accepted of him, by giving them his Holy Spirit, as he had done the Jews; and, consequently, that there was no difference between them.

St. Peter's declaration convinced the church, and it was unanimously decreed, that no other burden than the temporary observance of a few parLicular precepts, equally convenient to the Jews and Gentiles, should be imposed on them and the decision was drawn up in a synodical epistle, and sent to the several churches, for allaying the heats and controversies which had been occasioned by this dispute.

Peter soon after left Jerusalem, and went down to Antioch; where, using the liberty given him by the gospel, he freely ate and conversed with the Gentile proselytes, considering them now as "fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." This he had been taught by the vision of the sheets let down from heaven; this had been lately decreed at Jerusalem; this he had before practised with regard to Cornelius and his family, and justified the action to the satisfaction of his accusers; and this he had freely and innocently done at Antioch, till some of the Jewish brethren coming thither, he, for fear of offending them, whithdrew himself from the Gentiles, as if it had been unlawful for him to hold conversation with uncircumcised persons; notwithstanding he knew, and was fully satisfied, that our blessed Saviour had broken down the partition-wall between the Jews and Gentiles, under the gospel.

Having thus acted against the light of his own mind and judgment, Peter condemned what he had approved, and destroyed the superstructure he had before erected; at the same time, he confirmed the Jewish zealots in their inveterate errors, filled the minds of the Gentiles with scruples, and their consciences with fears. Nor was this all, the old prejudices between Jew and Gentile were revived, and the whole number of Jewish converts, following the apostle's examples, separated themselves from the company of the Gentile Christians; nay, even Barnabas himself was carried away by the torrent of unwarantable practice that now unhappily prevailed.

[ocr errors]

The apostle Paul was now at Antioch, and resolutely opposed St. Peter to his face; be publicly reproved him as a person worthy to be blamed for his gross prevarication. He reasoned and severely expostulated with him,

this Roman officer, being conversant in the duties of fasting and prayer, an angel from the courts of heaven appeared to me, declaring that my pray ers and alms were come up as a memorial before the throne of the Most High; and, at the same time, ordered me to seud to Joppa to one Simon Peter, who lodged at the house of a Tanner near the sea side who would give me further information in the duties of religion. Accordingly, I made no hesitation to obey the heavenly messenger, but sent immediately for thee."

The apostle was at first astonished at this relation of the centurion; but he was soon convinced that God had broken down the partition-wall, and no longer maintained a peculiar kindness for the sons of Jacob, that it was not the nation, but the religion; not the external quality of the man, bat the internal temper of the mind, that recommended the human race to the favour of Omnipotence: that the devout and pious, the righteous and the good man, whatever part of the earth he may inhabit, is the favorite of heaven; that God as highly respects a just and virtuous man in the barren wastes of Schythia, as on the mountain of Sion; that the reconciling and making peace between God and man by JESUS CHRIST, was the doctrine published by the prophets of old; and that God had now anointed and consecrated JESUS of Nazareth with divine power, in the exercise where. of he went about doing good to the children of men.

At the time that Peter was thus preaching to them, the Holy Ghost fell upon the greatest part of his hearers, enabling them to speak several languages, and in them to magnify the great Creator of the sons of men. At this the Jews, who accompanied Peter, marvelled exceedingly, to see that the gifts of the Holy Ghost were poured upon the Gentiles; and Pe ter seeing this, told the company, that he knew no reason why these persons should not be baptized, as they had received the Holy Ghost as well as them; and, accordingly, he gave orders that they should be baptized; and, to confirm them in the holy faith they had embraced, he tarried some time with them.

Having thus finished his visitation to the new planted churches, Peter res turned to Jerusalem, and was indefatigable in instructing the converts in the religion of JESUS, and preaching the glad tidings of salvation to the descendants of Jacob: but he did not long continue in this pleasing course; Herod Agrippa, in order to ingratiate himself into the favour of the Jews, put St. James to death, and finding the action was highly acceptable to that stiff-necked people, he resolved to extend his cruelty to Peter, and accordingly cast him into prison: but the churches were incessant in their prayers to God for his safety; and what have mortals to fear, when guarded by the hand of Omnipotence! Herod was persuaded he should soon accomplish his intentions, and sacrifice Peter to the insatiable cruelty of the Jews.

The night before the intended execution, a messenger from the courts of heaven visited the gloomy horrors of the dungeon, where he found Peter asleep between his keepers. The angel raised him up, took off his chains, ordered him to gird on his garments, and follow him: Peter obeyed, and having passed through the first and second watch, they came to the iron gate leading to the city, which opened to them of its own accord the angel also accompanied him through one of the streets, and then departed from him; on which Peter came to himself, and perceived that it was no vision, but that his great and beloved Master had really sent a messenger from above, and released him from prison. He therefore repaired to the house of Mury, where the church was assembled, and offering up their prayers to the throne of grace for his safety. On knocking at the door, a maid who came to let him in, knowing his voice, ran back to tell them that Peter was at the door, which they at first considered as the effect of fancy but the damsel continuing to affirm that it was really true, they

exercise of religion, especially in preaching to the prisoners, and those who resorted to them: and during this confinement, it is generally thought -St. Peter wrote his second Epistle to the dispersed Jews; wherein he en deavours to confirm them in the belief and practice of Christianity, and to fortify them against those poisonous and pernicious principles and ae, tions, which began to break in upon the church, then in its infancy...

At length, Nero returning from Achaia, he entered Rome in triumph and soon after his arrival, resolved that the apostles should fall as victims and sacrifices to his cruelty and revenge. While the fatal stroke was daily expected, the Christians in Rome were continually offering up their prayers to heaven to protect those two holy persons: but the Almighty was now willing to put an end to their sorrows; and after sealing the truth they had preached with their own blood, to receive them into the regions of eternal bliss and happiness, and exchange their crowns of martyrdom for crowns of glory. Accordingly, they were both condemned by the cruel emperor of Rome; and St. Peter having taken his farewell of the brethren, especially of St. Paul, was taken from the prison, and led to the top of the Vatican mount near the Tiber, where he was sentenced to surrender up his life by crucifixion.

Coming to the place of execution, he begged the favor of the officers, that he might not be crucified in the common manner, but with his head downwards; affirming, that he was unworthy to suffer in the same posture in which his Lord had suffered before him. This request was accordingly complied with, and the great apostle St. Peter surrendered up his soul into the hands of his great and beneficent Master, who came down from heaven to ransom mankind from destruction, and to open the gates of the heavenly Canaan to all believers.

The body of St. Peter being taken down from the cross, is said to have been embalmed by Mercellinus the presbyter after the manner of the Jews, and then buried in the Vatican, near the Appian way, two miles from Rome. Here it remained till the time of pope Cornelius, who conveyed it to the Vatican at Rome, where it rested in an obscure place, till the reign of Constantine, who, from the great reverence he entertained for the Christian religion, erected many churches at Rome, and rebuilt and vastly enlarged the Vatican in honour of St. Peter.

If we consider St, Peter as a man, there will seem to have been a natural eagerness predominant in his temper, which animated his soul to the most bold and generons undertakings: but if we consider him as a disciple of the blessed Jesus, we shall find him exemplary in the great duties of religion. To conclude: if we consider him as an apostle, as a pastor, or shepherd of the souls of men, we shall find him faithful and diligent in his office zealously endeavoring to instruct the ignorant, reduce the erroneous, strengthen the weak, confirm the strong, reclaim the vicious, and turn the children of men into the paths of righteousness. He never omitted any opportunity of preaching to the people, and spreading the glad tidings of the gospel amongst the human race: and so powerful were his discourses, that he converted many thousands at one time. How many painful journies and dangerous voyages did he undertake! With what unconquerable patience did he endure the greatest trials, surmount every difficulty, and remove every obstacle, that he might plant the gospel of his beloved Master! Never refusing even to lay down his life to promote it: nor was he only assiduous to perform these duties himself; he was also careful to animate others to do the like, earnestly pressing and persuading the pastors and governors of the church to feed the flock of God, to labour freely for the good of the souls of men, and not undertake those offices to acquire advantages to themselves; beseeching them to treat the flock committed to their care with lenity and gentleness, and to be themselves shining exampias of piety and religion, the surest method of rendering their ministry

successful: and, because it was impossible for him to be always present, to "teach and warn the children of men, he endeavored by letters to imprint in their minds the practice of what they had been taught; a method, he tells us, he was resolved to pursue, as long as be continued an inhabitant of this world; thinking it meet, while he was in this tabernacle, to stir up the pos sessors of the gospel, by putting them in mind of these things; that so they might be able after his decease to have them always in remembrance, and not let them slip out of their minds."


ST. JUDE is mentioned by three several names in the evangelical history, namely, Jude or Judas, Thaddeus, and Lebbeus. The first he had in common with the other Jews, and in honour of one of the twelve patriarchs; the other two might be added to the former, partly to distinguish him from Judas the traitor, who had rendered the name odious to the Christians, and partly as a commendation of his wisdom and zeal for Lebbeus, according to St. Jerom, signifies a man of understanding, and Thaddeus imports divine fervour; and hence some of the fathers call him Zelotes, or Zealous.


This apostle was brother to St. James the Less, afterwards bishop of Jerusalem, being the son of Joseph, the reputed father of CHRIST, by a former wife. It is not known when, or by what means, he became a disciple of our blessed Saviour, nothing being said of him, till we find him in the catalogue of the twelve apostles; nor afterwards till CHRIST's last supper, when discoursing with them about his departure, and comforting them with a promise, that he would return to them again, meaning after his resurrec tion, and that the world should see him no more, though they should see him; our apostle said to his Master, "Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" It seems, from this question, that St. Jude expected that the Messiah would establish a secular kingdom; and, therefore, could not reconcile the solemnity and grandeur of it, with the private manifestations of CHRIST to his disciples only.

It is affirmed by St. Jerom, that St. Thomas sent St. Jude the apostle, soon after our Lord's ascension, to Edessa, to heal Abagarus: but this is a mistake, it being Thaddeus, one of the seventy disciples and not Judas Thaddeus the apostle, who was sent to Abagarus.

We are told by Paulinus, that the province which fell to the share of St. Jude in the Apostolic division of the provinces, was Lybia; but he does not tell us, whether it was the Cyrenean Lybia, which is thought to have received the gospel from St. Mark, or the more southern part of Africa: but however that be, in his first setting out to preach the gospel, he travelled up and down Judea and Galilee; then through Samaria into Idumes, and to the cities of Arabia, and the neighbouring countries, and afterwards to Syria and Mesopotamia. Nicephorus adds, that he came at last to Edessa, where Abagarus governed, and where Thaddeus, one of the seventy, had already sown the seeds of the gospel. Here he perfected what the other had begun; and having by his sermons and miracles established the religion of JESUS, he died in peace; but others say, that he was slain at Berytes, and honourably buried there.

The writers of the Latin church are unanimous in declaring, that St. Jude travelled into Persia, there, after great success in his apostolical ministry for many years, he was at last, for his free and open reproving the superstitious rites and customs of the Magi, cruelly put to death by the enemies of the gospel.

We do not find that St. Jude left more than one epistle, which is plac ed the last of those seven, styled catholic, in the sacred canon. It hath

no particular inscription, as the other six have, but is thought to have been primarily intended for Christian Jews, in their several dispersions, as St. Pater's epistles were. In it he tells them, That he at first intended to write to them in general of the common salvation, and establish and confirm them in it: but seeing the doctrine of CHRIST attacked on every side by Heretics, he conceived it more necessary to spend his time in ex horting them to fight manfully in defence of "the faith once delivered to the saints," and oppose the false teachers who laboured so indefatigably to corrupt the truth."

It is generally understrood, the Heretics meant in this epistle, were the Nicolations, the Gnostics, the followers of Simon Magus and others of the same kind, whose morals were as corrupt as their doctrine, trusting to a faith without works, as sufficient to their salvation: so that the subject of St. Jude's epistle is nearly the same with that of the second of St. Peter, whose sense be generally follows, and often uses the very same expres sions only as the infection bad spread itself further, and had gotten more ground, he seems to oppose those Heretics with more zeal and sharpness than St. Peter had done: but because true Christian charity, though it be zealous, yet is without bitternes and hatred, he exhorts the Christians to use gentle methods with those deluded people, and to pluck them as brands out of the fire; meaning, by fire, their impious principles and practices, which if continued in, would certainly consume them. He seems expressly to cite St. Peter's second epistle, and to intimate plainly that most of the apostles were dead; so that his epistle seems not to have been written till after Nero's reign and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

This epistle was not at first generally received in the church: the author indeed, like St. James, St. John, and sometimes St. Paul himself, does not call himself an apostle, styling himself only the servant of Christ :" but he has added what is equivalent, "Jude the brother of James," a character that can belong to none but our apostle; and surely the humility of a follower of JESUS should be no objection against his writings, but rather be a recommendation of them.

One great objection against this epistle, was, the apostle's mentioning the tradition of Michael, the archangel contending with the Devil about the body of Moses, but he has done no more than St. Paul in naming Jannes and Jambres; namely, alleging a story which was then current and acknowledged by the Jews, though nothing of it was inserted in the sacred writings, so that St. Jude reasons with the Jews, from their own authors and concessions, the more easily to convince and confute them.

We have now, we trust, obviated the difficulties that have arisen concerning the epistle of St. Jude; and Eusebeus tells us, that in his time most churches read it publicly: it is indeed evident, that before the close of the fourth age, it was acknowledged as canonical Scripture, in the councils of Laodicea and Carthage, by general consent.

[ocr errors]


THE Jews, when they travelled into foreign countries, or familiarly conversed with the Greeks and Romans, were wont to assume the Latin name of the same signification, or at least that bore some affinity with that by which they were known in their own country. Thus our blessed Saviour was called CHRIST, answering to his Hebrew title Messiah, the anointed Simon was called Cephas in Hebrew, was styled Petros in Greek, both signifying a rock: Tabitha was called Dorcas, both signifying a goat: and thus Thomas, according to the Syriac import of his name,

« السابقةمتابعة »