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CHAP. IX.] ST. PHILIP, ST. SIMON ZELOTES, AND ST. BARNABAS.
to the exclusion of the other, is only what certainly occurred in the case of Barnabas. 105
India is said to have been the scene of his labours, and amongst his converts there a Hebrew copy of St. Matthew's Gospel is reported to have been found, at the close of the second century, by Pantænus. 108
St. PHILIP. Hierapolis was the chief abode of Philip. He is said to have been married, and the father of a large family, one of whom is mentioned as peculiarly devoted to the service of the Church, and the rest as prophetesses. If we may believe the uninspired record further, he was endued with no small portion of the power from on high, and on one occasion raised the dead. It is usual with us now to regard this, and all uninspired accounts of miracles, as more than doubtful. Yet certain it is, that the apostles were all gifted with power to work miracles; and must have needed them most to awaken the attention, and to convince the minds of those who were the least prepared for conviction from reason and Scripture. It may be wrong to contend for the certainty of any one miracle contained in the traditionary records of primitive times, but it is equally wrong to maintain a system of decided dissent from all.
St. SIMON ZELOTES. The title given to Simon, to distinguish him perhaps from Simon Peter, implies that he belonged originally to a sect of the Pharisees, whose intemperate and fanatical zeal was not the least of the many evils under which the Jews of this age laboured.107 Egypt, Cyrene, and the African coast, are said to have heard the Gospel from him. Great Britain, too, has by some been included within the compass of his ministry, and is reported to have been the scene of his martyrdom.
St. BARNABAS. With the account of Barnabas's separation from Paul ends all Acts xv. 39. authentic information concerning him. Cyprus was most probably the scene of his after ministry; or, if it extended beyond his native island, Egypt, rather than Gaul or Italy, should be the place assigned to him. All certain traces of him, however, are entirely lost; and it would be unnecessary to make any further mention of him, were it not for the writings which have been ascribed to him.
Of these, the catholic Epistle, generally published with the works His of the apostolic fathers, is all that still pretends to his name. Few
Epistle. can read it without being so sensible of its unscriptural character, as to seek no further for the external evidence against it. It is
105 So also the names Matthew and Levi were applied indifferently to the Evangelist. 106 Eusebii Hist. Lib. V. C. 10.
107 Joseph, de Bello Jud. Lib. IV.
therefore, by universal consent, now pronounced to be a forgery. And yet there is, after all, some difficulty in understanding how it should have obtained so much credit with the early Church, if it were so decidedly spurious as we suppose it to be. It is quoted as Barnabas's by Clemens Alexandrinus; Origen seems to recognise its scriptural authority; and Eusebius assigns it a place in the Canon. On the other hand, in Jerome's catalogue it is classed with the apocryphal books; and his authority is supported by the prevailing voice of antiquity.
Some ground there must be for this difference, or apparent difference, of statement. This very Epistle might have had, perhaps, for its basis a genuine work of Barnabas; and might be the gradual corruption of impostors, who availed themselves of the acknowledged fact, that a writing containing such and such general features was the production of this apostle. Hence, although its true estimate was soon obtained, its character would be for a while variously represented. What tends to confirm this, is the motley appearance it presents; the marked difference of style and thought between the beginning and the close, and the clumsy interpolations which scarcely affect disguise.
The only reason which can be discovered, for the conjecture of some in the early Church, that he was the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, seems to have been the concealment of the true author's name for a time, and the natural spirit of surmise to which it gave rise. St. Barnabas was named as likely to have written it, and so also were St. Luke and Clement. 108
St. MATTHIAS. Of the calling or election of St. Matthias, mention has been already made, and beyond this nothing certain is known. Eusebius has preserved a remark on the doctrine which he preached, viz. that it was the same in substance with what was afterwards called the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. 109
A Christian is properly enough unwilling to admit such a charge on this solitary testimony. At the same time, it must not be pronounced impossible that Matthias should become a heretic, any more than that Judas should become a traitor. On a subject of belief, we have seen Peter opposed to Paul; and Paul, again, on a question of ministerial duty, opposed to Barnabas. The very gifts and endowments of the Spirit were, no doubt, liable to abuse and perversion; and apostles, as well as all Christians, were free agents, and responsible for their use of their extraordinary talents. unto me, if I preach not the Gospel !”
Perhaps, after all, St. Matthias's words were misinterpreted; as St. Paul's and St. James's have been since.
108 See Appendix [H.]
109 Hist. Lib. III. C. 29.
St. MATTHEW. That St. Matthew was the author of the Gospel which bears his name is nearly all recorded of him, beyond the scanty notices of Scripture. It was the first that was written, 110 although it is impossible to fix the precise date.
Whether originally composed in Hebrew, as some have asserted, or in its present Greek, is a question not material to us. The Greek, if the translation, so soon superseded the use of the Hebrew, as to be the one commonly read and quoted; and, as such, received the sanction of inspired authority.
St. Mark. St. Mark's Gospel is said to have been derived from St. Peter's instructions, or at least to have received his revisal and sanction. It was compiled at the request of the Christians at Rome ;111 who, very naturally, employed for this work one who had been the follower both of Paul and Peter, if, as has been suggested, the original Church in that city was made up of their respective congregations. It has been remarked accordingly by many, as a striking characteristic of this Gospel, that it studiously avoids all allusions and expressions which would not be equally intelligible to Jew and Gentile, and seems carefully adapted throughout to all the classes of believers. It contains also many Latin words for which the Greek equivalents were in common use, and adopted by the other evangelists. 112
It was scarcely possible for a portion of Scripture so circumstanced as this must have been, not to have been always recognised as authentic.
Although Mark was not an apostle, yet the gifts of the Spirit were so widely diffused, that supposing him to have recorded from memory the instructions of an apostle, the prohibitory impressions of the Holy Spirit, (the character of which has been already pointed out, and which there is no ground for appropriating to the apostolic order,) would have been sufficient to secure him from error. It is indeed asserted, that his and St. Luke's history were finally revised, at least, the one by St. Peter, the other by St. Paul. But, after all, our belief in its inspired character rests on the judgment of the primitive Church; which was most competent to decide whether a Gospel written by such an author, and under such circumstances, was or was not of Divine authority.
If St. Mark's Gospel received the revision of St. Peter, it could circiter, not have been written later than A.D. 66 or 67, the period of his A.D. 65. imprisonment and martyrdom at Rome.
110 Origenis Fragm. Tom. I. Commentar. in Matthæum. 111 Euseb. Hist. Lib. II. C. 15.
112 Kεντουρίων for εκατόνταρχης, &c.
Acts i. 1;
ST. LUKE. His Gospel,
St. Luke's Gospel, like that of St. Mark, could not have been published on his own authority, because neither was he an apostle. Nevertheless, in his narrative of the Acts he was particularly quali
fied for the office of historian; because he was an eye-witness, and xx..5,0;18; bore part in most of the scenes which he describes. For the
remainder too, and for the Gospel history, there could be no surer
guide than St. Paul, with whose preaching he was so long familiar. Inspiration As was observed of St. Mark's Gospel, a portion of Scripture so of St. Luke. written has not less claim to inspiration than the work of an apostle
or prophet delivering an immediate revelation from God. For the true notion of inspiration, even in the latter case, is not that the sacred penman was inspired while in the act of writing ; but that he wrote what he had beforehand received by extraordinary revelation. It would be impossible else to account for the variety of style and thought, the occasional introduction of matter foreign to revelation, and whatever else belongs to such writings in common with all mere human compositions. The contrast between the true Scripture and the pretended records of revelation, in this respect, has been already noticed. Between Luke's writing what he had heard from Paul, and Paul's writing what he had received from God, the only difference could be, the difference between them as authors; the difference of style, of manner, and of the other accidents, as it were, of authorship. If in writing, or in preaching, St. Paul's memory had misled him, some check from the Holy Spirit would have guided him back to the truth. Now Luke, like all who preached the Gospel, must in his preaching have enjoyed the same preservative aid, and why not in writing also ? Had any necessary portion of Christian instruction escaped St. Paul's memory, the Holy Spirit then would have called it to his remembrance ; for such was our Lord's promise to the apostles. But if this promise did not extend to others, if Luke's omissions were not miraculously supplied, Paul was at hand to supply them. Granting the possible omission, too, of any necessary point, this would not, like a false statement, be inconsistent with the inspired character of any one Scripture, inasmuch as the record of the Gospel is not one but many."
St. Luke's Gospel appears to have always passed for his; and Apostles, although the Acts have not likewise his name attached, yet the
internal evidence, and the voice of the early Church, certainly
declare him to be the author. 115 Epistle to That the Epistle to the Hebrews should have been ascribed to
one whose writings had been the vehicle of so much of St. Paul's ascribed to instruction, is nothing wonderful. At the time when the author's
name was studiously kept a secret from the public, the tone of 113 Hieronymi Provem. in Matt.
114 See Appendix [I.] 115 See Appendix [K.]
Acts of the
the Hebrews at one time
Luke's conversation, and his very expressions, perhaps in some instances being derived from St. Paul, might naturally have fixed on him the uncertain authorship. And if St. Paul desired concealment, St. Luke would be the less likely to be forward in disclaiming the Epistle ; lest he should, by so doing, direct surmise towards the right person.
It has been very reasonably conjectured, that his Gospel was somewhat prior to that of Mark.
St. John. St. John was the last of the apostles; with him therefore, and St. John with the period through which his life and miracles extended, we the Inspired may consider the second great era of Christianity to close—the era era. when it was preached by inspired ministers. For although no one can undertake to prove that miracles were not performed long subsequently, yet the main system of Christianity was conducted thenceforth by ordinary means and ordinary agents. After St. John, there was no one endowed with that most stinguishing power of an apostle, the power of communicating the gifts of the Spirit.
A life which was prolonged, no doubt providentially, to the close almost of the first century, and which consequently embraces more than sixty years of the most interesting period of our religion, may be expected to furnish an eventful record. But such is not the case. To the acts of St. John belongs the same character as to those of the rest of the apostles; they are only known by their results. Whether in this veil of oblivion, which has been allowed to conceal Probable their glorious exertions from our view, there be any thing like a theobscurity design of Providence perceptible, the pious Christian may be allowed which to consider. Perhaps he may find in it a merciful removal of a the History temptation to view the work in which they were engaged as the pose
Apostles. result of human virtue, more than of Divine power extraordinarily exercised. Contemplating the propagation of religion at this distance, with the earthly and mortal instruments employed by the Spirit removed from the scene, we are led more directly to trace it to its source, and to see it in the light in which St. Paul warns his own converts and us to view it; as the work not of himself or of his fellow-labours, but of God who was working in them.
It may not a little confirm this estimate of the matter, and teach Supported by us to distrust our untried hearts on this score, to recollect that the
produced want of an authentic account of all the labours and sufferings of the box Church apostles, and early ministers of the Gospel, has been supplied by a series of legendary tales, which, even without proof or likelihood to recommend them, have actually produced the evil supposed. If the trust of so large a portion of Christians for so many ages has been withdrawn from God to his ministers, from the Lord Jesus to his saints; and the prop of that trust has been the boasted legends