Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

among the Catholics has been, that he is to be a Jew of the tribe of Dan ; and the whole history of his reign, wars, vices, doctrine, miracles, persecutions, and death, has been written by. a Spanish jesuit. Hippolitus and others held that the devil himself was the true antichrist, and would become incarnate in human shape before the consummation of all things. Lastly, Oliver Cromwell, in the seventeenth century, and Napolean Buonaparte, in the present, have found writers desirous of exalting thein to this bad eminence,

Of the time of writing the second and third episțles of John, nothing, as Lardner observes, can be said with certainty. It is not unlikely that they were written between the years eighty aud ninety, when John might very fitly take the distinguishing epithet of the elder or aged apostle.

Some have supposed that the person to whom the second epistle is addressed ought not to be called the elect Lady, but that one of these words being left untranslated, the passage should be read the Lady Eclecta, or the Elect Kuria. It is thought to have been written to confute the error of Basilades and his followers, who affirmed that Christ was not a man in reality, but only in appearance.

The third epistle is addressed to one Gaius, or Caius, a christian eminent for hospitality ; but whether the same as is mentioned by Paul in his epistle to the Romans is uncertain. A principal design of its being written was to oppose the practices of one Dietrephes, who was fond of distinction in the church, and unfriendly to Christian strangers.

The authority of the Apocalypse, or book of the Revelations of St. John, appears to have been universally admitted during the two first centuries, though it was ques. tioned in the beginning of the third, in consequence of a mistaken opinion that it encouraged the expectation of the temporal reign of Christ on the earth. It was evidently written in the island of Patmos, whither John appears to have been banished for his adherence to the cause of his Master. Its date is generally fixed to the year ninety-six; but others place it earlier, even before the destruction of Jerusalem. It may be divided into three parts: the first, which is contained in the first chapter, gives an account of a vision of our Lord, which John saw while engaged in the devotions of the Lord's day. The second part contains the epistles of Christ to the seven churches in Asia. (chap. ii. and iii.] The third part, which occupies the remainder of the book, describes the condition of the church in succeeding times. This commences with a sublime description of the deity enthroned in glory, surrounded with saints and angels, and proceeds to represent a sealed book of God's decrees, which none could open but the Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ. The opening of these seven scals makes the first period which is described at length in the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters. The second period is that of the trumpets, which are given to seven angels, and six of them sounded, each of their blasts being followed by the most awful consequences. [ch. viii.] The third period is introduced by the measuring the temple, the vision of a womau clothed with the sun and opposed by a dragon, the vision of two savage beasts wbich should make great desolation among the saints of God, that of an angel flyiog through the midst of heaven with the everlasting gospel in his hand, and several other mystical representations. The seven angels then pour out their seven vials full of the wrath of God upon his enemies in earth, and Babylon is at length declared to have sunk beneath his vengeance. [chap. xiii. to xix.] The fourth period represents the flourishing state of the church during the space of a thousand years. (chap. xx. 1..6.] In the fifth period, Satan makes a fresh, but unsuccessful attempt for the establishment of his kingdom. [verse 7., 10.] The sixth period represents the universal judginent. (verse 17 to the

end.] And the seventh describes the happiness of the saints of (iod. [chap. xxi. xxii.] It is scarcely necessary to observe, that no book of the New Testament has been so variously interpreted.

The history of John after his return from banishment is thus recorded by Eusebius, in the third book of his Ecclesiastical History.

" At this time, there remained alive in Asia that same apostle and evangelist, Jobu. whom Jesus loved ; and, having returned from his banislıment to the island after the death of Domitian, he again governed the churches. That be yet remained alive, is proved by the testimony of two very credible witnesses, both of them zealous defenders of the orthodox faith, namely, Ireneus and Clement of Alexandria. The former of whom, in his second book against heresies, writes thus word for word: “ All the presbyters who were acquainted in Asia with John, the disciple of our Lord, testify that John delivered it to them ; for he remained with them until the time of “ Trajan." And in the third book, upon the same subject, he manifests the same thing in these words : “Moreover, the church at Ephesus was founded indeed by Paul, but John, continuing among them until Trajan's time, was a faithful witness of the apostolic traditions.'

Clement, also, having pointed out the time, adds also a history very necessary for them who like to hear good and profitable things, it is in that bouk which he has written under the title who that rich man is that shall be saved. Let us therefore take his book, and read the story, which is thus, “ Hear a fable, and not a fable ; but a true story, which is related concerning John the apostle, and delivered unto us and kept in remembrance. For when, after the tyrant was dead, he had returned from the island of Patmos to Ephesus, being requested so to do, he departed for the neighbouring countries, in some places ordaining bishops, in others regulating whole churches, and in others again choosing into the clergy those who were pointed out by the Spirit. When he had come to a certain city not far distant, and of which some have related the nanie, (the author of the Chronicon Alexandrinum calls the name of this city Smyrna,) and, moreover, having refreshed the brethren, seeing a very young man, of goodly stature of body, comely couptenance, and lively disposition, he looked stedfastly upon him whom he had ordained bishop, and said, I commit him to thee with all diligence, in the presence of the church and of Christ, as witness. And when he had received him, and promised that he would perform all things, John, having again charged him with these things, and taken him to witness, afterwards returned to Ephesus. The presbyter, having received him, took home the young man who had been delivered to him, brought him up under due restraint, cherished him as his own, and, at length, enlightened, i. e. baptized him ; but after that, be relaxed something of his great care and watchfulness over him, because he had placed upon him, as it were, the perfect and secure seal of the Lord. But he, having received bis liberty too early, became corrupted by certain idle and dissolute young men abandoned to all evil, who, being his equals, associated themselves with him, invited him to sumptuous entertainments, afterward engaged him to go with them by night to rob and stop travellers, and, at length, allured him to still greater villany. Ile became gradually accustomed to crimes ; and, on account of the violence of his spirit, like a strong and ungovernable horse, flies from the right way, and, furiously champing the bit, hastens to precipitate himself into an abyss of ruin. At last, rejectiug the salvation of God, he determiued nothing less with himself than to commit some enormous crime ; for, leaving now_become desperate, he scorned to suffer the common punishment of other thieves. Taking, therefore, bis accomplices, and forming them into a troop of robbers, he readily became their leader, being the most violent, bloody, and cruel of them all. In the mean time, on some necessary occasion, the Christians of that city sent for John. Ile, after that he had set in order those things on account

[ocr errors]

men.

of which he had come, said, O bishop, restore to us that charge which I, and indeed Christ, committed unto thee, in the presence of that church over which thou art ordained. He, truly, was at first astonished, supposing that he was falsely accused of money which he had not received ; yet, while he could not believe himself to have had those things which he had not received, so neither could he dare entirely to disbelieve John. But when John had said, I demand the young man, and the soul of our brother, the elder, groaning deeply, and also weeping, replied, He is dead. How ? and what kind of death? To God, said he, he is dead ; for he proved wicked and completely abandoned, and, at length, became a thief ; and now, instead of continuing in the church, he hath betaken himself to the mountain with a troop of armed

The apostle then rent his garments, and exclaimed with a bitter lamentation, I have left a good keeper of his brother's soul ! but furnish me with a horse and a guide for the way. So he hastened immediately out of the church ; and, coming to the place, is taken by the watch which the thieves had set, when he neither flies, nor endeavours to avoid them ; but cries out with a loud voice, I am come for this purpose, bring me to your captain. The captain, armed as he was, for awhile stood still; þut as soon as he knew that it was John who was approaching, being filled with shame, he betook himself to flight. But the apostle vigorously pursued him, forgetfu! of his age, and exclaimed, Why dost thou flee from me ? shall a son flee from his father, an unarmed old man ? Pity me, my son ; do not fear ; thou hast yet hope of eternal life. I will intercede with Christ for thee ; if it were necessary, I would readily undergo death for thy sake, as Christ hath died for us. I will pay my soul for thine ; stand still ; believe me; Christ hath sent me. Hearing these things, the young man at first stood motionless, looking on the ground, then threw away his weapons, and, at length, trembled and wept bitterly. Embracing the old man, who came to him, he apologized for himself with groans as well as he could, and became baptized a second tiine with his tears, all but his right band, which he continued to conceal. The apostle, promising and swearing that he would obtain for him the remission of his sins from our Saviour, having kneeled down and kissed his right hand, now purified by repentance, brought him back into the church again. Then, making intercession for him with frequent prayers, agonizing with him in continual fastings, composing his mind with comfortable passages, he did not leave him, as they say, before he had established him in the church, thus giving a great example of true repentance, an illustrious proof of regeneration, and a trophy of a blessed resurrection."

There are several other stories related concerning John, which do not seem to have been so well authenticated as the preceding. Thus he is reported to have turned pieces of wood and stone into gold, in order to satisfy the avarice of some, who, having renounced their riches for the sake of the Christian religion, afterwards repented of their choice ; to have been placed in a vessel of boiling oil without being scalded ; and to Lave drank poison without receiving any pernicious effect. He died, according to Jerome, in the third year of 'Trajan, in the hundredth year of his age, according to the opinion of Lampe, and just at the end of the first century. His name has constantly been lield in the most profound veneration, for the simplicity, love, and meekness, which equally distinguished his character and his writings.

CHAPTER XIX.

THE HISTORY OF OTHER PERSONS MENTIONED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.

The Virgin Mary--Peter--review of his two epistleshis preaching at Romehis mar.

tyrdom-Andrew--his martyrdon-James the ElderPhilip the apostle-BartholomewThomas--his preaching and martyrdomspurious writings attributed to him. James the Lcss_review of his epistleaccount of his death-Judehis epistlethe pretended embassy to Abgurus, king of EdessaSimon Zelotes, or the Cantanite Matthias--badges of the apostles-Philip the DeaconNicanor Timon-ParmenasNicholas-BarnabasApollosT'imothyobservation on his second epistle-Titusremarks on the epistle directed to him-character of the Cretuns-Philemon-Onesimus --Linus--Clement-Hermas-Dionysius the Areopagite-conclusion.

IN the prosecution of our present undertaking, a considerable variety of objects has passed before us in review. Our first employment was to trace the blessed sun of righteousness from the earliest dawning of his light, till, having arrived at his meridian splendour, a cloud received him from the sight of mortals, and he ascended to dispense the blessings of his rays upon the inhabitants of a world to us unseen, though not entirely unknown. We then beheld the eternal spirit descend like tongues of cloven flame, rest on the heads of the disciples, and communicate to them that rich abundance of divine instruction which enabled them to shine in their generation like stars in the firmament of heaven. The most distinguished, though the last called of these holy men, was Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles. Throughout that portion of his life which elapsed between his conversion and his death, he appears superior to most of the weaknesses of human nature ; and, having fixed his view steadily on the advancement of his Redeemer's kingdom, regretted no labour or suffering which was necessary for the attainment of this purpose. The celebrity of the four evangelists, especially of the three former, is derived not so much from the excellencies' of their own characters, as from the exalted dignity of that Saviour whose history they have recorded. There now remains a number of venerable persons concerning whose lives we possess but scanty information, yet whom it would be unjust to pass over in silence. Such are ivary, the mother of our Lord, the remainder of the twelve apostles, the seven deacons, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, and several others to whose labours the Gentile world is greatly indebted. Of these we shall proceed to speak in their order.

of the Virgin Mary nothing further is known with certainty thao wbat is recorded in the New Testament. From that most authentic source, we learn that she was a maiden of Galilee, of exemplary piety and modesty. She does not appear to have been lifted up by the message of Gabriel ; but, retiring as much as possible from the world, expected, with humble solicitude, the fulfilment of the divine prediction. She watched, no doubt, over the infant Jesus with the most tender and unremitting care, delighting to observe his progress in wisdom and in stature, and cherishing the belief that he would one day effect the deliverance of Israel. Her affectionate expostulation with him when he remained among the doctors at Jerusalem affords a remarkable instance of her maternal care. From the silence of the evangelists concerning Joseph, it is probable that Mary became a widow before the commencement of our Lord's ministry. At his death, he commended her to John, on whose affectionate disposition he had the most implicit reliance. Neither her own danger, nor the sadness of the spectacle, nor the reproaches and insults of the people, could restrain her from witnessing the sufferings of her son upon the cross. In this, she exhibited, as Grotius justly observes, a noble example of fortitude and zeal. Now a sword, according to Simeon's prophecy, [Luke ii. 35.] struck through her tender heart, and penetrated her soul; and, probably, the extremity of her sorrow did so overwhelm her spirits, as to render her incapable of attending at the sepulchre. Nothing more concerning her is mentioned in the sacred story, or in early antiquity, except that she continued among the disciples, and united in their worship after our Lord's ascension. [Acts i. 14.] Andrew of Crete, a writer of the seventh century, tells us that she died with John at Ephesus, in an extreme old age; and it appears, from a letter of the council of Ephesus in the fifth century, that it was then believed she was buried there. But they pretend to shew her sepulchre at Jerusalem; and many ridiculous tales are forged concerning her death and assumption, or being taken up into heaven, of which the best Catholic authors are themselves ashamed.

Simon Peter was a native of Bethsaida, a town situated on the western shore of the lake of Gennezareth. He was by trade a fisherman, and had a brother named Andrew; but whether he was elder or younger than Simon is not known. Their father was named Jonah, or John; and, probably, was of the same occupation with his sons.

Andrew was a disciple of John Baptist, [John i. 35, 41.] and heard him point out Jesus as the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This good news Andrew communicated to his brother Simon, and brought bim to Jesus, who, foreseeing the fortitude he would exercise in preaching the gospel, honoured him with the name of Cephas, or Peter, which is, by interpretation, a stone, or rock. [John i. 42.]

Andrew and Peter now become the disciples of Jesus, and often attended him. Yet they still followed their trade of fishing occasionally, till he called them to a more constant attendance, promising to make them fishers of men. (Mat.siv. 19.) Afterwards when he chose t'welve of his disciples to be with him always, and to be his apostles, Peter and Andrew were of the number. About that time, Peter had left Bethsaida, and had gone to Capernaum with his wife, who is thought to have been of that town. From Andrew's accompanying his brother thither, and living with him in the same house, it may be conjectured that their father was dead. With them, Jesus also abode, after he took up his ordinary residence in Capernaum ; for he seems to have been pleased with the disposition and manners of all the members of the family. This house 19 sometimes called Peter's house. (Mat. viii. 14.] and sometimes the house of Simon and Andrew. [Mark i. 29.] Thus, as Lardner observes, it appears, that before Peter became anapostle, he had a wife, was the head of a family, had a boat and nets, and a furnished house, and maintained himself by an honest occupation. To those things Peter alluded when he told his Master, Behold, we have left all and followed thce ; what shall we have therefore? (Mat. xix. 27.] The apostle Paul seems to insinuate

« AnteriorContinuar »