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vail; and in cases where the finest productions of human talents fail of useful application, they afford the best aid to conflicting virtue, the last hope to repentant guilt.
The first of these records is the Gospel or history of the life and doctrines of our Saviour by St. Matthew ; of which evangelist and apostle I shall now give you some account. He was an Hebrew by birth, but advanced by the Romans to a situation in the collection of taxes. It may easily be conceived that the native of a tributary state engaged in levying imposts on his countrymen, to be transferred into a foreign treasury, would be a person subjected to much odium ; and, without referring to more dubious authority, we have indeed the express words of our Saviour himself indicating that he coincided in the general opinion as to the characters of persons thus employed. “And if thy brother,” he says,
neglect to hear the Church, let him “ be unto thee as an heathen man and a
publican A more minute criticism
a St. Matt. xviii. 17.
would seem to place St. Matthew in the lowest class of publicans, or to sink him into one of their agents "; but, as we find him, under the name of Levi, giving a great feast to our Saviour in his own house, to which many publicans were invited, it was more than probable that he was a person engaged in a lucrative occupation; though such an employment could neither inspire the hope nor supply the means of subverting the established ordinances of the world. From this class of society, then, was St. Matthew chosen, and the following is the manner of his call, as recorded by himself.
As Jesus passed forth from thence” (his own city, where he had healed the paralytic man) “ He saw a man, named Matthew, sit“ ting at the receipt of custom: and He saith “unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him .
From this period to the death of our Saviour we find St. Matthew his constant companion, the eye-witness of his actions, and
b Suiceri Thesaurus Eccl. tom. ii. p.
1267. c St. Luke v. 29. d St. Matt. ix. 9.
the auditor of his discourses. Without tracing the more doubtful history of his life and sufferings, after the death of his master, we have sufficient here to convince us, that “ he knew those things whereof he spake,” that he was a competent evidence of the facts which he related, and that (as I shall afterwards show) we possess his relation of them.
There is no question, however, but that he fulfilled that injunction of our Saviour, after his resurrection, which he has recorded at the close of the Gospel, and which would otherwise rise up in judgment against him : “ Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; “ teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo! I
you alway, even unto the end of “ the world.” In obedience to this divine command, he is said to have first preached the Gospel in Judea, and afterwards to have passed into Macedonia, making many con
· St. Matt. xxviii. 19, 20.
verts, and finally to have suffered martyrdom in a city of Ethiopia, of which the name is given by some early writers. But to us, my brethren, he still preaches the word of truth; to us he still testifies of the life and sufferings of his Divine Master; to us he still unfolds our future destination, and prescribes our present duty in that sacred record which he has left behind him, and to which I now call your attention: having spoken of the man, I proceed to consider his work.
I shall pass over briefly a discussion which has arisen, whether St. Matthew, addressing his Gospel principally to the Jews, might not have composed it in their language, which still retained the name of Hebrew, and is so called by the writers of the New Testament, after the Hebrew had ceased to be a living language': because the ques
+ The testimony of the fathers is varying and uncertain respecting the language in which the Gospel of St. Matthew was originally written. Yet the evidence of Eusebius, Lib. III. c. 22. that the Hebrew Gospel was not received by the Church, and the fact that it was suffered to perish, whilst the work in Greek has been preserved, seem decisive of the questions of originality and authen
tion is not essentially connected with the subject-matter of the work; and because the proof that it was in substance written by him, as we now possess it, is of more importance. This Gospel, like the others, has always borne the name of the writer which is now prefixed to it from the time at which it first appeared; nor has any copy of it been ever known to exist bearing any other name or superscription than that of the
ticity. M. Simon, leaning to the opinion that the present work is the translation, states what is perfectly satisfactory to the argument: “ Il suffit pour autoriser cette ancienne “ version Grecque, qu'elle ait été lue dans les églises fon“ dées par les apótres, et qu'elle soit venue de siècle en “ siècle jusqu'à nous par une tradition constante."—Hist. Critique du Nouv. Test. c. ix.
On the language spoken by the Jews in the time of our Saviour, see the learned and accurate little work of Giambernardo de Rossi, “ Della Lingua propria di Cristo e “ degli Ebrei Nazionali della Palestina da' Tempi de' Mac“ cabei.” This learned person clearly establishes that the language spoken in Palestine in the time of our Saviour, namely, the Syro-Chaldaic, is that which is familiarly called in the New Testament the Hebrew: “E certo che quella
lingua di spesso viene da essi (i scrittori sagro-santi del “ Nuovo Testamento) chiamata col nome di Ebraica.”— Dissert. II. c. 25.-See also Salmasius de Hellenistica, p. 181. ed. Lugd. Bat. 1643.