Page images

A. M. 4012, instigated Astyages, the king's brother, to get him into his hands, and to have him * ...” first flayed, and then either beheaded or crucified: Who tell us of f St Matthias, that 6s, so having for some time employed himself in the work of the ministry within the confines - of Judea, at length he betook himself to other countries, and travelling eastward, came at last to Ethiopia, (or Cappadocia rather) where, meeting with a people of a fierce and untractable temper, after all his labours and sufferings, and a numerous conversion to the Christian faith, from them he received the crown of martyrdom, but in what manner it was conferred # authors are not agreed: And who tell us of St Barnabas **, that after his separation from St Paul, having preached about Liguria, and settled a church at Milan, (whereof himself was constituted bishop) he returned at last to Cyprus, his native country, where, by the malice of the Jews, he was tumultuously assaulted, and stoned to death at Salamis, the principal city of the island. * Thus were all the apostles and first ministers of Christ appointed by God to lay down their lives in testimony of the truth of the Gospel, except the beloved evangelist +2 St John ; and yet, if we consider his stripes and imprisonment by the council of Jerusalem, his || banishment to the isle of Patmos for the word of God, and his being

* That excoriation was a punishment in use not pretended authority of this apostle. Cave's Lives of

only in Egypt, but among the Persians likewise, is
evident from the testimony of Plutarch, who records
a particular instance of Mesabates the Persian eu-
nuch's being first flayed alive and then crucified. In
vita Artaxerx. And that the Armenians, who were
next neighbours to the Persians, might from them
borrow this piece of barbarous and inhuman cruelty,
is no hard supposition at all; [for, according to Bruce,
it is a punishment sometimes inflicted in Abyssinia at
this day.] Cave's Lives of the Apostles, and Bruce's
f As this apostle was not one of the first election,
immediately called and chosen by our Saviour, we
are not to expect any account of him in the history
of the Gospel; but from the Acts of the Apostles, we
learn, that being one of our Lord's disciples, and pro-
bably one of the seventy, upon the death of Judas he
was elected into the apostleship, which he discharged
with great efficacy, and a full demonstration of the
Spirit and of power: But there are some things in
ecclesiastical story related of him, (as particularly
when he preached the Gospel in Macedonia, and the
heathens, to make experiment of his faith, gave him
a poisonous potion, that he chearfully drank it up in
the name of Christ, and received no harm) which
have not met with so ready a credence, though the
instance before us be no more than the completion of
our Saviour's promise to his apostles, “they shall
take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing,
it shall not hurt them,” Mark xvi. 18. Cave's Lives
of the Apostles.
+ Ancient martyrology reports him to have been
seized by the Jews, and, as a blasphemer, to have
been first stoned and then beheaded; but the Greek
offices, seconded herein by several ancient breviaries,
tell us, that he was crucified, as an hymn, cited by
Dr Cave out of the Greek offices, seems to import.
There was a spurious book, called the Gospel, or Acts
of Matthias, which Eusebius tells us was composed
by heretics, and fathered upon him; even as Clemens
of Alexandria observes, that Valentinus, Marcion,
and Basilides, sheltered their vile tenets under the

the Apostles, and Stanhope on the Epistles and Go-
spels, vol. iv. -
* In relation to this apostle, we have only to re-
mark, that he hath left us one epistle, reckoned a-
mong the Apochryphal writings of the first Christians,
which may be genuine perhaps, though not canonical.
Its principal design is to prove that the law is abo-
lished by the Gospel; that legal ceremonies are use-
less; and that the incarnation and death of Jesus
Christ was necessary. It is certainly very ancient,
full of piety and zeal, frequently quoted by Clemens
of Alexandria, and though written in a style very al-
legorical, by the labours of our late Archbishop Wake
is made, to the English reader, both entertaining and
profitable. Calmet's Dictionary, and Stanhope on
the Epistles and Gospels.
+* Theophylact, and others before him, were of
opinion, that our apostle died a martyr, upon no other
ground than what our Saviour told him and his bro-
ther, that they should drink of the cup, and be bap-
tized with the baptism wherewith he was baptized,
which St Chrysostom strictly understands of a bloody
death. This was indeed literally verified of his bro.
ther James; but the general sense of antiquity is,
that St John died in his bed. Cave's Lives of the
| This punishment, in the Roman law, is called
capitis diminutio, because the person thus banished
was disfranchised, and the city thereby lost an head.
It succeeded in the room of that ancient punishment,
aquà et igni interdicere, whereby it was implied, that
the man must, for his own defence, betake himself
into banishment, when it became unlawful for any
to accommodate him with lodging or diet, or any
other necessary of life. But this banishing into
islands was properly called disportatio, being account-
ed the worst kind of exile, whereby the criminal for-
feited his estate, and being bound and put on ship-
board, was, by public officers, transported to some
certain island, (which none but the emperor himself
might assign) there to be confined to perpetual ba-
nishment. The place to which St John was carried

east into a cauldron of flaming oil + by the order of Domitian, we can hardly deny him from Aets i. the honour of being a martyr, since he submitted himself freely to such sufferings as " " ". nothing but a miracle could rescue him from. Of this apostle the same ecclesiastical writers tell us, That (a) after the death of the blessed mother, (which happened about fifteen years after our Lord's ascension) by the special conduct of the Holy Ghost, he was carried into Asia, on purpose to oppose the heresies which in those parts began to spread and infest the church; that as he spared no pains in preaching the Gospel where it was wanted, and in confirming it where it had been settled, many churches of note and eminence, besides those mentioned in the beginning of his revelation, were of his foundation; that in the persecution raised by Domitian, the proconsul of Asia sent him bound to Rome, as an asserter of atheism, and a subverter of the religion of the empire, where he was treated with the utmost barbarity, and at length banished into a desolate island, there to be employed in digging in the mines; that in this disconsolate place, however, he was entertained with the more immediate converse of heaven, and by frequent visions and prophetic representations, had a clear prospect given him of the state of Christianity in the future periods and ages of the church *, which he has transmitted to us; that upon the death of Domitian, when Nerva had rescinded all his odious edicts, our apostle took the opportunity to return to Ephesus, and (as Timothy had lately

was Patmos, a little island in the Archipelago, now called Palmosa, mountainous, but moderately fruitful, especially in wheat and pulse, though defective in other commodities. The whole circumference of the island is about thirty miles, and on one of the mountains stands a town of the same name, having on the top of it a monastery of Greek monks; and on the north side of the town the inhabitants by tradition shew an house, in which the Apocalypse was written, and not far off the cave where it was revealed, both places of great esteem and veneration with the Greeks and Latins. Cave's Lives of the Apostles, and Wells's Geography of the New Testament. + This is a point of history that has of late been called in question: But since it is attested by Tertullian de Praescript. c. 36. a most learned and very Thonest man, and who lived near enough the time to be certified of the truth; since it is contradicted by no ecclesiatical writer that we know of, is no more incredible than St Paul’s taking up a viper unhurt, Acts xxviii. 3, &c. and is agreeable to the intimation given of St John, that he should not die a martyr, John xxi. 21, 22. there can be no reason for cawilling at this in those that admit of the possibility of any miracle. Collins's Grounds, &c. and Whiston’s Answer. (a) Cave's Life of St John, and Echard’s Ecclesiastical History, vol. ii. * The Apocalypse, or book of Revelation, as we call it, was of old not only condemned, by heretics, but controverted by many of the fathers likewise. Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, tells us, that for his part he durst not reject it, being persuaded, that it contained many wise and admirable mysteries, though he could not comprehend them; and that though he owned the author to have been a Divinely inspired Person, yet he could not believe it to be St John, the

apostle and evangelist, because the style, matter, and
method of it, did no ways agree with his other wri-
tings. The common current of antiquity, however,
runs another way; and as the diversity of style, &c.
is of no moment in this case, because that in subjects
which are so vastly different, it is hardly possible for
any man to observe the same tenor and way of wri-
ting, the book being wrote in the island Patmos,
which is a circumstance compatible to none but St
John ; his name so frequently occurring in it, his
styling himself “a brother and companion in tribula-
tion, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus
Christ;" his writing particular epistles to the seven
churches in Asia, all planted, or at least cultivated
by him, together with doctrines contained in them,
all suitable to the apostolic spirit and temper, these
are so many concurring evidences to prove our apo-
stle to have been the author of it, whatever was the
occasion of its not being received so readily into the
canon of Scripture. [The reason why it is not men-
tioned in the most ancient catalogues of the sacred
books seems to be this. It contains many things far
above the comprehension of the unlearned, and not
a few about the true sense of which, the most eminent
divines, and skilful critics, are not even yet agreed.
On this account it was not publicly read in the
churches, or at most very sparingly, as is the case at
this day in the church of England. Origen divides
the New Testament into three parts; 1. The Gospels;
2. The Epistles of the Apostles; and, 3. The Apoca-
lypse ; from which it seems probable that the Apoca-
lypse was then kept in a distinct volume, as being
proper to be read by none but men of great emi-
nence in the church; but the books recorded in the
most ancient catalogues, were such as every man
was to have in his possession, and constantly to read.]
Cave's Life of St John, and Johnson's Edition of the
Apostolical Canons. *

A. M. 1102, been dead) at the request of the bishops of the province, entered upon the administra‘....” tion of that Metropolitan See, and therein continued till the reign of Trajan; that in ...'..." the time of his ruling this church, he wrote three several epistles; wherof the first is =called Catholic, calculated, as it were, for all times and places, “in which he excites his little children (as he calls all Christians) to love and charity, to holiness and purity of manners; cautions them against resting in a naked and empty profession of religion, against being led away by the crafty insinuations of seducers; antidotes them against the poison of the Gnostic principles and practices; and gives them most excellent rules for the conduct of the Christian life.” [The apostle's principal object appears to have been to confute the errors, not of Jews and heathens, but of Christian heretics; for he says expressly, that the persons whom he opposed, had but lately appeared in the world, and had gone out from the true church of Christ. These persons were Cerinthus and the Docetae, of whom the former taught that Jesus was a mere man, the son of Joseph and Mary, on whom the AEon, or super-angelic Being, Christ, descended at his baptism, but left him before his death; whilst the latter, on the other hand, maintained that Jesus was an incorporeal phantom, in which the AEon Christ, or the Divine nature, presented itself to mankind. Cerinthus, and indeed the whole sect of Gnostics in general, asserted likewise, that the apostles did not deliver the doctrine of Jesus as they received it, especially in the commandments, which were termed legal, whereas they themselves (the Gnostics) retained the genuine and uncorrupted mystery. All these errors are opposed by the very first words of the apostle's epistle. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have iooked upon—iBiasaoz —contemplated, looked upon often and intently, and our hands have handled of the word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you.” Here St John, in opposition both to Cerinthus and the Docetae, asserts, that he declared that which was from the beginning, which he himself had seen and heard; that he taught the doctrine of Christ as it was originally delivered, and as he had heard it from Christ's own mouth, whose person could be no incorporeal phantom, since he had both seen and felt it; and that he made no addition of his own, but only reported as a faithful witness. As the Gnostics taught likewise that faith in Christ set men free from the laws of morality, and that a man, though he sinned, might still be righteous in respect to his spiritual soul, because sin proceeded only from the material body, St John said to those, for whose instruction he wrote, “Let no man deceive you, he that doth righteousness, is righteous.” This, considered by itself, appears to be an identical proposition, hardly worthy of an apostle; and the same thing may be said of that other assertion—“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law ;” but both these propositions, when considered as opposed to the doctrine of the Gnostics, are far from being superfluous, because evident as the truths which they express appear to be, these truths were virtually denied by those heretics, as they are by the Antinomians of the present day (a)] The other two epistles are but short, and directed to particular persons; the one to a lady of honourable quality, “encouraging her and her children to charity, to perseverance in good works, and to shew no countenance to false teachers and deceivers; the other to the charitable and hospitable Gaius, so kind a friend, so courteous an entertainer of all indigent Christians. The same authors tell us, that in his Archi-episcopal capacity, he took great care of the flock of Christ, and, notwithstanding his advanced age, went many journeys into the neighbouring provinces, to ordain bishops, to settle and confirm churches; and was

(a) See Marsh's Michaelis, vol. iv. ch. 30,

induced at last, by the request and importunity of several of his disciples, (even when from Act, he was 97 years of age) to compose his Gospel, f for a defence against the heresies 10 to the end ~4.

then brooding, and for a supply of what the other evangelists had omitted : For as we cannot but suppose, that, in the course of the many years which he lived, he had seen the writings of all the rest of the apostles and evangelists, and signified his approbation of them; so we can hardly imagine any thing more worthy, his care, or more necessary in itself, than for him to ascertain the authority of those writings, and to finish and settle the canon of Scripture, that it might be the rule of faith and practice, and the church's preservative against to such heresies, as were very numerous even in those

days, and very likely to give much trouble and scandel in future ages.

This was the

last service he had to do for the church of Christ, which, when he had accomplished, he then finished his course, and in a * good old age to dying peaceably at Ephesus,

+ The ancients assign two reasons, especially for the writing of this Gospel. The first is, that he might obviate the early heresies of those times, especially of Ebion and Cerinthus, and the rest of that party who began openly to deny Christ's Divinity, and that he had any existence before his incarnation. The other is, that he might supply those passages of the evangelical history, which the rest of the sacred writers had omitted ; and therefore, collecting the other three evangelists, he first set to them his seal, ratifying the truth of them with his approbation, and then added his own Gospel to the rest; wherein he chiefly insists upon the acts of Christ, from the first commencement of his ministry to the death of John the Baptist, in which the others were most defective; and wherein he largely recerds his discourses, because some of them were passed by, but takes not so much notice of his miracles, because they were sufficiently related by the rest. Cave, ibid. +* The heresies that then were springing up, and not long after overspread the church in diverse places, were those of Menander, Cerinthus, and Ebion ; whereof we shall give our reader this short account. Menander was a Samaritan, a great disciple of Si. mon Magus, (of whose tenets and doctrines we have spoken before, (p. 459 of this volume) and a notorious impostor and magician, as well as he. He maintained, that the world was made by angels, denied the reality of Christ's manhood, and affirmed, that himself was the true Saviour of the world, sent from above for the restoration of mankind; that without being initiated into his magical knowledge, and baptized in his name, none could be saved: that his baptism was the true resurrection, which, to those that were partakers of it, would not fail to convey, even in this life, youth, vigour, and perpetual immortality. These were some of the illusions wherewith he seduced many in Antioch, the place where he chiefly resided, and though their extravagance made them less infectious, yet they were continued in the second century by Basilides and Saturninus. Cerinthus was a Jew by birth, and spread his notions principally in Ephesus, and other parts of Asia Minor. He maintained, that the world was not made by God, but by a certain power distinct, and very different from the Supreme Being : That the old law and precepts of Moses were to be observed in con

Vol. III.

junction with those of Jesus Christ: That Jesus was no more than a mere man, born of Joseph and Mary, but that at his baptism Christ descended upon him like a dove; that at his crucifixion, Christ forsook him, and returning into heaven, left him to suffer alone; and lastly, that after the general resurrection, Christ's kingdom should be terrestrial in the city of Jerusalem, where men should enjoy all sorts of carnal pleasures, and pass their time in the celebration of marriagefeasts, and banquets for a thousand years. Ebion, so called from his affected poverty, was born in a village of Palestiue, and spread his heresy in Trachonitis. He agreed with Cerinthus in denying the divinity of our Saviour, and enjoining the obser. vation of the law of Moses as necessary to salvation. He asserted, that God had given the dominion of all things to Christ and the devil; and that as the latter had the ascendancy in this world, so the for. mer should have a much greater superiority in the next. All the prophets, after the time of Joshua, and all the New Testament, except the Gospel of st Miatthew, he rejected ; and, as for the writings of St Paul, these he utterly condemned, as the product of a wicked and vile apostate, because he endeavoured to prove the dissolution of the Mosiac law. Fleury and Echard's Ecclesiastical Histories, and Tillemont's Hist, des Empereurs. ". The general opinion is, that he was ninety-eight or ninety-nine years of age when he died, which was in the third year of Trajan's reign; St Chrysostom, however, is very positive, that he was an hundred years old when he wrote his Gospel; and Dorotheus affirms, that in the whole he lived an hundred and twenty. But all this is highly improbable: for, according to this account, he must be fisty years of age when he first became acquainted with our Lord; a thing di. rectly contrary to the testimony of all antiquity, which makes him very young at the time of his being called to the apostolic office. Cave, ibid. to But, contrary to this, some have peremptorily denied that he ever died at all, upon no better foun. dation than our Saviour's words to St Peter concerning him, “If I will, that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” though St John, who records these words, inserts a caution, that “Jesus did not say he should not die, but only, what if I will, that he tar till I come 2" John xxi, 22, 23, which doubtless he

[ocr errors]

A. M. 4012, was buried || in that city, where several of the fathers observe, that his tomb, in their *:::::: time, was remaining in a church which was built to his honour, and called by his name. 'ss, &c." Thus we are come to the conclusion of the apostolic age, and so have brought our his

=tory to its intended period.

[ocr errors][merged small]

... BUT pity it is that an history of so much consequence to the Christian world should
be so soon brought to its period; or that the book of the Acts of the Apostles, which
should contain, one would think, the most remarkable achievements of these great he-
roes, should so sadly belie its title: For, excepting St Peter and St Paul, all that we
have of the rest is but here and there a particular passage of their lives; (a) now and
then an oblique and accidental remark; and in some of them no more than a bare re-
cital of their names. Nay, even as to the characters that are chiefly insisted on, the
history of St Paul proceeds no farther than to his first imprisonment at Rome; and no
sooner is St Peter delivered from his at Jerusalem, than the author entirely drops him,
and has left it as a point undetermined, and a perpetual bone of contention between us
and those of another communion, whether he was ever at Rome or no.
An author who affected to be thus brief, even in matters that required an illustration,
should not fail, one would think, to be very clear and correct in the other part of his
composition; and yet, what shall we say, (b) when we find him leading St Stephen (c),
from the first call of Abraham to the generation then in being, through a wild goose
chase of history, nothing at all to the purpose, and yet stuffed throughout with errors
and falsehoods; for such, no doubt, is that (d) of Terah's death, before Abraham's re-
meant of his coming in judgment upon the Jews, at he had instructed them in the precepts and mysteries
the final overthrow of Jerusalem, which was an event of Theology, confirmed them in the practice of reli-
that St John outlived many years. However, as the gion, and commended them to the care and blessing

apostles at first mistook our Saviour's meaning, and
thereupon a report went out among the brethren,
that his beloved disciple should not die; so we may ob-
serve, that the continuance of the same report, viz.
that St John is still alive, has been made use of by
some to wild' and fantastic purposes. For Sulpitius
Severus, speaking of a young Spaniard, who first pro-
fessed himself to be Flias, and then Christ himself,
adds, that at the same time there was one in the East,
who pretended to be St John, even as Beza tells us of
an impostor in his time who publicly did the same,
and was afterwards burnt at Thoulouse in France.
Care, ibid.
| But instead of being buried, we find Nicephorus,
Hist. Eccl. 1. 2. c. 42. relating the matter thus:–
That St John, foreseeing his translation into heaven,
took the clergy of the church of Ephesus, and seve-
ral, other Christians, out of the city with him, to a
gemetry, where himself was wont to retire to prayer;
that, having there ordered a grave to be dug, after

of Jesus Christ, he solemnly took his leave, and went down into the grave; that he strictly charged them to put on the grave-stone, and to make it fast, which accordingly they did; but coming next day, as he had enjoined them, when they opened the sepulchre they found nothing there but the grave-clothes, which he had left behind him. But this is far from agreeing with what another author, much of the same stamp, (the Arabic writer of his life) reports, viz. that there was none present at this apostle's burial but his disciple Phogsir, (he means very probably Prochorus, one of the seven deacons that constantly attended him) whom he required strictly never to discover his sepulchre to any : for the same reason, very likely, that the body of Moses is thought to have been concealed to prevent the idolatrous worshipping of his reliques. Cave, ibid.

(a) Cave's Life of St Andrew.

(b) Kidder's Demonstration of the Messiah, part ii. p. 87. (c) Acts vii. (d) Ibid. ver, 4.

« PreviousContinue »