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LIVES, ACTS, AND MARTYRDOMS
H O L Y A POST LES
S A VIOUR.
TO WHICH ARE ADDED,
LIVES OF THE TWO EVANGELISTS,
ST. MARK AND ST. LUKE.
AS ALSO, A BRIEF ENUMERATION AND ACCOUNT OF THE APOSTLES AND
THEIR SUCCESSORS FOR THE FIRST THREE HUNDRED YEARS,
IN THE FIVE GREAT APOSTOLICAL CHURCHES.
BY WILLIAM CAVE, D, D.
AN INTRODUCTORY ESSAY,
REV. HENRY STEBBING, M. A.
THOMAS GEORGE, JR., SPRUCE STREET.
THERE are certain eras in the history of mankind | the moral truths of history; and where this is prowhich require to be contemplated by many and perly taken advantage of-when the mind, intent various lights. This is especially the case with on the object of inquiry, gathers around it whatthose which have derived their importance from ever ean emit even the smallest ray of light, and giving birth to new moral systems, or from bring. history is examined as a body instinct with spirits ing into more conspicuous action the spiritual en- which have their immortality within it, and will ergies of our race. Political revolutions naturally come forth and manifest themselves at the call of form remarkable points in the annals of nations, thought rightly spending its preparatory vigils; then because attended with events to which the tenaci- the most important eras of our existence, those in ty of human sympathy would of itself give a dura- which we have been perceptibly carried towards ble importance: but in those changes which have the great beacon-light of humanity, will enable us reached the souls of men, a power is found to be to observe those changes in their origin which have at work, the dimmest discovery of which never had the most beneficial influence on our state and fails to act with an elevating force on the mind of nature, and to converse with the just men who, the discoverer. It is a noble property of the hu- now made perfect, had then to struggle with man conscience to be able to recognize the Al- temptations and difficulties like our own. mighty in creation; but this is so generally the But glancing over the wide circle of human hisendowment of man, that he is expected, even in tory, with the distinct purpose of discovering the his lowest condition, to act according to the light periods at which mankind were most forcibly aphe may thence derive; whereas, to behold God in pealed to, and influenced, in their spiritual capacithe secret workings of his providence, in the pre- ty, it is impossible for us not to find our attention parations and dispensings of his Spirit, is in the at once arrested by the singular splendor which power only of those whom he has singularly favor. marks the birth and growth of Christianity. If ed with wisdom and the love of meditation. But we may find a type in creation, of that second great in many of those events which compose the bulk demonstration of divine love, we see the light of history, he effects his designs by the operation which at first existed only in its own limitless founof agents which seem to partake almost as little tains, and but a few scintillations of which before of his living spirit as the matter which composes shone upon the world, then poured into a glorious the machinery of the universe: and thus, in the orb to shed constant beauty and fertility over the study of history, a large portion of it may be read universe; for the slightest examination of history without demanding or eliciting any extraordinary shows, that what was before but uncertainly known proof of mental vigor; while, on the other hand, in morals, thenceforward became fixed in princi. every passage which describes the new position ples; and that the truths which had been made into which mankind is put, by an enlargement of palatable by their mixture with error, then became light and knowledge, demands, and when fairly sufficiently attractive of themselves to secure the contemplated, produces another and a higher state attention of the world. In the subsequent conof mind. While however this is the fruit of that flicts between truth and error, a change is pernobler class of historical truths, they also require ceptible both in the modes of attack and defence, a more copious illustration than others, to be and in the instruments employed for carrying on brought within the scope and operation of our un- the struggle. Error dared not deny the unity of derstanding. The higher we ascend in the regions God-truth feared not to assert it as the foundaof speculation, the firmer should be our supports; tion of all holiness : instead of marshalling the a rule the neglect of which has exemplified almost shadowy ranks of mythological powers, and lookmore than any thing else, the pride and folly of ing for the soul of a deity under each broad shield human reason; for, however otherwise it may ap- of the abstract virtues, error itself acknowledged pear to superficial minds, it is mainly owing to our the pure and mighty attributes of Jehovah, only negligence or indifference that there is not found venturing to speak of the variety of his decrees; in the very loftiest ranges of human thought, in and truth, instead of appealing to tradition, or the those which it is supposed by the world exist only innate notions of the soul, referred at once to rules for wild hypothesis, firm footing for reason, and which had received the sanction of Eternity. True bright and visible temples of truth,—islands and it is, that the soil was not uniformly impregnated continents lying beyond the vast ocean of uncer- with the divine fire which glowed in Christianity; tainty, which are not the less real because but but the external change was sufficiently great and rarely visited, nor the less beautiful because their general to show that the world confessed the acstarry galaxies have not yet been submitted to our i tion of a new element; and from the commencecalculations. The same remark holds good also in ment of its operation to the present hour, the efrespect to the less speculative part of such inqui- fects have been evidently on the increase. ries. There is both a greater degree of evidence The examination of an era like this is equally required, and a greater degree given, for unfolding interesting and important. It is one of the plain
est duties of the intellectual and spiritual to do traiture can be drawn of those we are most anxiwhatever lies in their power to bring it as distinct- ous to contemplate than would otherwise be ly as may be within the general range of men's imagined. Christ himself stands revealed in all understandings and sympathies. This has been the fulness of celestial purity and goodness to the allowed in every age of the Christian church; and eye of patient meditation : but it is not by his its greatest ornaments have gladly employed their words taken singly, nor by the separate consideralearning and their power of logical inquiry in this tion of particular miracles; it is by bringing them sacred labor. They have considered that while together; by passing with him from the crowded the Scriptures are the sole original of doctrine ; shores of Jordan to the solitary wilderness; and while they alone are to be appealed to when we from the wilderness to the populous towns and vil. would correct error, heal schism, rebuke self-will, lages of Galilee; by accompanying him in spirit or do aught which belongs to the establishing of through his trials and his triumphs; bringing them, the faith, there are many sources, both of informa- as near as may be, within the focus of a single tion and instruction, which, properly opened, may glance of faith, that the character of Christ, that be made to pour copious streams of knowledge Christ himself, is known in the manner described into the bosom of the Christian community. And by the evangelist John ; that is, so as to be seen to this conclusion they have been guided by the and handled as the word of life. The same, in diversified character of Scripture itself; which, a lower sense, is true of his chief apostles. St. while it contains the fulness of doctrine contains Peter, for example, had a character distinctly the elements of much beside, which is to be marked by several peculiarities of mind and temwrought out by the industry of the human mind; per; but it is only on one or two main facts of or which, being sufficient for the immediate pur- his history that the ordinary reader of the gospose in view, is to content the uninquisitive, but pel fixes his attention; and the other circumform to others the foundation of farther and more stances respecting him being neglected, his general inquiry. This is the case with many of zeal and his fall, the two extreme points, are so those points which it was not consistent with the brought together as to destroy the possibility of intentions of Christ to direct his messengers to presenting him to the mind in the proper proporteach as main parts of their doctrine; but which, tions of human character. On taking, however, nevertheless, as being in themselves true, could into consideration the ordinary account given of not fail to be involved in the rest, and are to be his countrymen, the Galilcans, described as natraced out by the laborious and spiritual watchful- turally fierce, bold, and impatient of contradicness of true biblical students. An example of this tion ; adding to this, a due weighing of the ciris afforded us in the little stated, in direct terms, cumstances attending the life of a fisherman, ex, respecting the future condition of the redeemed, posed to many perils, often called to reflection by and the still less of the separate state of the soul : the startling phenomena of the deep: then pass. but by a diligent comparison of the passages ing to the view of the incidents which occurred which bcar remotely on these subjects, by a care- after his call; his apparent attachment to home; ful treasuring up of all the overflowings of light his eagerness to avail himself of his privileges as from the main vessels of doctrine, the mind is re- a disciple of Christ; the ready surrender which warded with a far nearer approach to the know- he made of his mind to the doctrines of his master; ledge of these hidden things than the cursory read- his astonishment on Tabor; his weariness in er can suspect.
Gethsemane; his terror in the judgment-hall, will And while this is the case with respect to doc- be seen in their natural bearings and relations, trine, it is also especially so in regard to the his. To these particulars may be added, the incidents torical development of the gospel birth-time. The recorded of him after the gift of the Holy Spirit, circumstances recorded are separated widely from of which sufficient are related to place him diseach other by matter of deeper importance, in the tinctly before us, and to show that the groundmain, than the facts themselves. Thus attention work of his personal character still retained its is perpetually drawn from the incidents of the his- strong, original peculiarities. Then, leaving the tory to the doctrines of the system, and this more narrative, we may turn to his epistles, which cethan is the case with any other narrative in ex- ment and admirably illustrate whatever is found istence; if we except, perhaps, some few passages written of him in the Scripture history. Glowing of national history, which describe the rise or es- with all the fervor natural to his soul, deeply imtablishment of fundamental laws. Hence arises bued with the associations of his venerable faith the necessity for especial care in the study of in the prophets, and elevated by intimate acevangelical history, which has, indeed, an import- quaintance with the sublimest mysteries of spiritance in relation to doctrine itself not always duly ual religion, we hear him speaking the language estimated; for, not to mention that which is obvi- which might be looked for from one who had not ous to all, its support of the doctrine, or its illustra. only been on the mount of transfiguration, but tion of doctrine, it is the soil ont of which the seed had proclaimed the divinity of Christ, and had reof eternal truth and life first sprung, embodied in ceived gifts of knowledge proportionable to his visible forms: the gospel being the incarnation of faith. But there is a striking feature in these truth, and the history which it delivers, the deve- epistles biographically considered ; they abound lopment of that new Being thus, as it were, born in maxims remarkable for sedateness and cauinto the world.
tiousness of spirit : they exhort to duties which On examining the several books of the New only the most self-subdued heart can understand ; Testament, with a view to the discovery of the and the quick, impetuous Peter is heard admonishcharacters of the several actors in the events it ing with a mildness and serenity of argument describes, it is found that a far more distinct por- which might only have been looked for from the
most gentle of human spirits. Light is thus prehended.” A sentiment embodying the highest thrown upon the disposition of Peter, and upon the doctrine of evangelical righteousness, and made state of his mind when he had passed the greatest palpable to the understanding of every man by portion of his career as a preacher of the gospel; this deeply pathetic confession of the apostle. and we are hereby enabled to contemplate his Scripture history, when thus studied, affords completed character
. In doing this, we find it more distinct portraits of the characters it menretaining all the elements which gave it a degree tions than many of the most celebrated of secular of rude grandeur even at the commencement of narratives ; but it is to be regretted, that in the his course; which made us feel, when he first general reading of the divine records, that which pronounced his most sublime confession, “ Thou is historical is not less neglected than what is art the Christ, the Son of God !” and when he purely doctrinal or monitory, and thus the con-' dared to attempt a pathway over an angry sea, ception of those characters which the Scriptures because it led to his Lord, that a man had risen set forth in the two-fold light of chosen agents in before us destined for great purposes : we find the great works of Providence, and examples to him neither less ardent or less courageous; neither the universal race of man, is too indefinite either less affectionate nor less susceptible; but these, his to move the heart, or to fill up the space they are original characteristics, are all nobly blended with intended to occupy in the argument of faith. It the loftier attributes of an apostle confirmed in the was the consideration of these circumstances faith, filled with the wisdom of experience, and which first led to the composition of lives of the grown familiar with the great Spirit of Truth, by Saviour and his immediate followers, founded on long and intimate communion with him in every the relations of Scripture, but intended to present scene and circumstance of life.
the principal facts and minute particulars, which On looking again at the account given of St. lie widely dispersed through the books of RevePaul, though we find the circumstances related of lation, in a condensed and consecutive order. In his ministry more numerous, and set forth in a undertaking this task, however, even the most more distinct order, they plainly require to be careful of writers would naturally inquire, whether brought together by great care, and with all the there were not other sources of information which succinctness which the energy of inquiry can give might be safely employed to furnish the means of them, before the apostles of the Gentiles will be minuter description than those which ought to be seen in the true light which history, properly em- looked for in a record of revelations and doctrines, ployed, may render. In this case, the great ef- rather than of events. Clear and impressive as fort required is to bring the brief but important were the forms which rose before the contemplanarrative of his labors into immediate connection tive eye of the spiritualized student, it could not with his own compositions ; a point which may be be denied that the bolder the hand seemed by reached with little or no difficulty so far as the which the outline was drawn, the deeper the tints mechanical or formal arrangement is concerned; which filled it up, the more attractive and satisbut to effect which, so as to make them mutually factory would the whole be likely to prove to the illustrate each other, is a work of skill, and the ordinary reader. Hence sprang the mingled nereward of thoughtfulness. The history given by cessity and temptation which gave such value to St. Luke is close and rapid ; but we learn from it, the traditions which arose, like a thick mist, somesufficient to understand the early zealotry, the times from the natural heat of the current of deep enthusiasm, the strength of Paul's character, events, at others from its impurity and stagnation. which confirmed him in his early principles against In both cases the use made of them necessarily every appeal short of the strongest demonstra- depended on the honesty and the skill of those tions of the will of God. Striking, however, as who employed them in illustration or continuation might be the portrait drawn of this wonderful of the Scripture narrative. But unfortunately, man, had we only his history as recorded in the the credulity of some, and the artifice of others, Acts, that which is most admirable in his charac- speedily brought the use of traditionary remains ter would be but weakly exhibited through this into disrepute; and it soon became a question unassisted medium. It is in his epistles, and that with those whose stern worship of truth prevented in many passages which an inattentive reader their discriminating between them, whether the would pass over, without discovering either their traditionary was not the same as the fabulous. historical or spiritual force, that the peculiarities, This is a question of immense importance in the the bright and glorious individuality of St. Paul is history of our religion ; and it need scarcely be to be found displayed. Whatever is said by critics mentioned, that some of the bitterest controversies of those marvellous idioms of true poetry which in which different divisions of Christians have been penetrate the mysteries of our nature, and are so engaged, derived much of their rancor from the precious as indications of large classes of truths, doubts attending this subject. But so far as the may be said of numerous incidental expressions biography of the eminent founders of our religion and allusions in the writings of this apostle; and is concerned, the question admits of limitations by observing these, we arrive at a knowledge not which bring it within the possibility of solution.only of his labors, of his energy and perseverance, It is not to establish disputed points of doctrine but of his intellectual being, as wrought upon, and that we desire to see these chosen and, without a possessed by the Spirit of holiness whom he, on metaphor, heaven-born men as they lived and the other hand, (and in this consisted the great acted; but to be soothed, elevated, and encourmystery of his renewed nature,) sought to pos- aged in our struggles by their example. The
“ Not as though I had already attained, appeal to tradition, therefore, for biographical pureither were already perfect; but I follow after, if poses, has none of the suspicion which attends it that I may apprehend that for which also I am ap- I when employed to serve any partial design ; and