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ST. MARK's DAY.
O Almighty God, who hast instructed thy holy church with the heavenly doctrine of thy Evangelist St. Mark: give us grace, that being not like children carried away with every blast of vain doctrine, we may be established in the truth of thy holy gospel, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE blessings which are communicated to
mankind by the ministry of the gospel are unspeakably great, as we are reminded by the epistle annexed to our present collect. Therein, (Eph. iv. 11-16,) St. Paul informs us that our Divine Redeemer, after that He had “ ascended up far above all heavens that He “ might fill all things-gave some, Apostles; “ and some, prophets; and some, evangelists ; “ and some, pastors and teachers; for the per“ fecting of the saints, for the work of the mi, “nistry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; “ till we all come in the unity of the faith and “ of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a
perfect man, unto the measure of the stature “ of the fulness of Christthat we henceforth “ be no more children tossed to and fro, and “ carried about with every wind of doctrine, “ by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness,
whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but “speaking (or rather maintaining) the truth in “ love, may grow up into Him in all things, " which is the head, even Christ; from whom
“ the whole body fitly joined together, and - compacted by that which every joint sup“ plieth, according to the effectual working in " the measure of every part, maketh increase of " the body unto the edifying of itself in love." Of the mercy which hath thus been shewn to
, the church she preserves a grateful remembrance, by a commemoration of those inspired persons through whom the precious stream of revelation hath flowed, and from whom the commission of her King has been derived to her ministers in a long succession.
The Evangelist St. Mark, though his name is evidently Roman and was probably assumed on occasion of his visiting Italy and Rome, was doubtless of Jewish extraction, and descended from the tribe of Levi in the line of the Priesthood. He is said to have been the son of St. Peter's sister; and is to be distinguished from John, sirnamed Mark, the son of Mary, and from Mark who was sister's son to Barnabas. He is supposed to have been converted to the Christian faith by one of the Apostles, and probably by St. Peter; since he was the constant attendant of that Apostle in his travels, his amanuensis and interpreter. He accompanied St. Peter in his apostolical progress, preached the gospel in Italy and at Rome; where, at the request of the Roman Christians, he composed and wrote his Gospel.
By St. Peter our Evangelist was sent to plant Christianity in Egypt. He fixed his chief residence in Alexandria and its environs, where multitudes both of men and women were converted to the faith by his preaching. But he did not confine his labours to the oriental parts of Egypt: for he removed westward to Lybya,
Marmorica, Pentapolis, and other countries; where his preaching and miracles were the means of converting many to the faith, with whom he stayed till he had confirmed them in the profession of the truth. Returning to Alexandria he preached freely for some time, regulated the newly formed church, and wisely provided for a succession by constituting governors and pastors therein. But the restless enemy
of the souls of men would not suffer him to be long quiet. For, at the time of Easter, when the great solemnities of Serapis were celebrated, and the minds of the people were excited to a passionate vindication of their idol's honour, they broke in upon St. Mark, who was then engaged in the solemn celebration of Divine worship. They seized him, bound his feet with cords, dragged him through the streets, and the most craggy places, to the Bucelus, a precipice near the sea, and for that night thrust him into prison, where his soul was encouraged by a Divine, vision under the tortures of his shattered body. On the following morning the tragedy recommenced, and he was dragged about in the same manner, till through bruises and loss of blood he expired. He outlived St. Peter and St. Paul, and is supposed to have suffered about the end of the reign of Nero.
His Gospel, the only book which he left behind him, was written at the intreaty of the converts at Rome, who, not contented to have heard the Gospel from the lips of St. Peter, requested his Disciple St. Mark to commit to writing an historical account of what the Apostle had delivered to them. This our Evanrelist performed in the gospel which bears his
e, with faithfulness and brevity. St. Peter
is said to have perused the narrative, to have ratified it by his authority, and to have commanded it to be read in the public assemblies of the Roman church. It was frequently styled St. Peter's gospel; not so much because dictated by him to St. Mark, as because the evangelist composed it chiefly from those discourses which St. Peter usually delivered to the people. St. Chrysostom“ has observed, that St. Mark delights, in his style and manner of expression, to imitate St. Peter, representing much in a few words. Though he commonly reduces the story of our Saviour's acts into a narrower com. pass than St. Matthew, yet there are passages in which he is more diffuse. The impartiality of his narrative appears from hence, that, so far from concealing the shameful lapse of St. Peter, his beloved tutor and master, he mentions some particular circumstances and aggravations which the other Evangelists have omitted.
“ So far as may be judged by comparing the gospels of Mark' and Matthew, the first is an abridgment of the second. Mark often uses the same terms, 'relates the same facts, and notices the same circumstances. He sometimes adds particulars, which give great light to St. Matthew's text. There are also two or three miracles in Mark, which are not in Matthew. (See Mark i. 23, and chap. i. v. ix. xvi.) What is most remarkable is, that, though he follows Matthew in almost every thing else, yet he forsakes him in the order of his narration, from chap. iy. 12, to chap. xiv. 13, of Matthew. In these places he follows the order of time as noted by Luke and John. This has induced chrono- . logers to follow Luke, Mark and John, rather than Matthew. He begins his gospel with the
preaching of John the Baptist, and omits several parables related by St. Matthew, chap. xx. xxi. and xxv.; and several discourses of our Saviour to His disciples and to the pharisees. (Chap. v. vi, vii. xvi. xviii.”) : The collect, appointed for St. Mark's day, contains a preface and a prayer. The preface records the Divine mercy which hath been shewn to the church by the instrumentality of this Evangelist; - And the prayer implores grace that we may duly improve it.
The Alexandrian Christians, and those of many other countries, were deeply indebted to Divine goodness for the personal ministry of this eminent
But not only had they a cause for thankfulness in the recollection of St. Mark, for his memorial is justly blessed among us also: and that not merely on their account whom his oral testimony was the means of turning from darkness to light, and from the power of satan unto God; but also on our own, since we also are “ lightened with his heavenly doctrine," to whom “ he, being dead, yet speaketh."
Who can sufficiently admire the wisdom and goodness of God in raising up different men, in different places and on different occasions, to commit to writing those facts on which our salvation depends; in qualifying them for the important work by the inspiration of His Spirit; and in preserving their narratives for our use on whom the ends of the world are come? Had one historian only been employed, the narrative would have been more liable to suspicion. But “in
* Calmet's Dictionary. See a lively description of St. Mark's style and character of writing in Blackwell's Sacred Classic$, vol. i. p. 291, &c.