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THE FOUR EVANGELISTS, AND OF
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST.
“ MATTHEW the Publican.” Matt. x. 3. MATTHEW, surnamed Levi, was the son of Alphæus. He was a native of Galilee, but of what tribe of the people of Israel we are not informed. Before he became a follower and apostle of Christ, he was a publican, or tax-gatherer, under the Romans, and collected the customs upon all goods exported or imported at Capernaum, a maritime town on the sea of Galilee* ; he also received the tribute, or toll-money, paid by all passengers who went by water. While thus employed « at the receipt of custom,” Jesus, the Christ, called him to be a witness of his words and works, in the manner narrated at page 47, and thus conferred upon him the office of an apostle of the new dispensation.
+ Of the ancient towns upon the sea of Galilee, Capernaum is now a heap of ruins, the very situation of Chorazin is uncertain, and Bethsaida has altogether disappeared.
From that time forth he continued with our Lord, a familiar attendant on his person, a spectator of his private as well as of his public conduct, a hearer of his discourses, a witness of his miracles, and an evidence of his resurrection. After our Saviour's ascension, Matthew continued at Jerusalem with the other apostles, and with them was endowed, on the day of Pentecost, (which was within ten days after the ascension, with the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel of St. Matthew was written first of all the scriptures of the New Testament. It was compiled while the author continued in Judæa, about the fourth year after the crucifixion, that is, in A.D. 37. There is internal evidence which makes it highly probable that this gospel was composed before the death of the Roman emperor Tiberius, and he died in the spring of the year 37. Being intended for the use of the Jewish converts, it was then written in Hebrew, (or rather in the Syro-Chaldaic dialect, which was in those days the vernacular language of the Hebrew people,) for the same reason that St. Paul subsequently addressed them orally in that tongue, whereunto, as the Evangelist records, they gave the more silence. But St. Matthew also put his narrative into Greek about four-and-twenty years afterwards, and this is the version of it which we have extant now, and from which our English translation is made.
St. Matthew's life of Christ may be divided into four parts; of which the first treats of the genealogy, the birth, and the infancy of our Saviour. The second part records the preaching and the actions of John the Baptist, the baptism of Christ by him, and
the temptation in the wilderness. Part the third relates the discourses and the miracles of Christ in Galilee, whereby he demonstrated that He was the Messiah ; and the fourth part contains the transactions relative to the cross and passion, the resurrection and ascension of Christ.
Next to St. John, the apostle Matthew had the best human opportunities of all the evangelists for writing a regular and connected narrative of the life of our Lord. From the short time that had elapsed after the death of Christ when St. Matthew compiled his gospel, it is eminently distinguished for the clearness and minute particularity with which it records many of our Lord's discourses and moral precepts ; especially his sermon on the mount, his illustrations of the spiritual nature of his kingdom, his prophecy of the desolation of Jerusalem, and his final commission and commandment to the apostles, at the moment of his ascension into heaven. St. Matthew, too, is the only one of the Evangelists who has recorded our Lord's own awfully impressive revelation of the things that shall be hereafter, in the last great day, when the Son of Man shall sit upon the throne of his glory, and judge the world in righteousness. *
“ John, whose surname was Mark.” Acts, xii. 12.
All that we learn from Scripture concerning St. Mark is, that he was the son of Mary, a pious woman of Jerusalem (at whose house the apostles and dis
* See page 224. The reader will do well to compare with this account the vision of St. John in the Apocalypse, with its fearfully magnificent description of the same event, from chapter xx, verse 11. to the 8th verse of chapter xxi.
ciples often assembled together to pray), and “ sister's son to Barnabas." His Hebrew name was John, and he is supposed to have adopted the surname of Mark when he left Judæa to preach the gospel in foreign countries. This practice was not uncommon among the christianized Jews of that age; and we have another familiar instance in the case of Saul, who, after his conversion, took the name of Paul. St. Mark is supposed to have been converted by St. Peter, from the circumstance of this apostle styling him his son, as St. Paul calls Timothy his own son in the faith. Clement of Alexandria, speaking of the occasion of writing Saint Mark's Gospel, informs us, that “ Peter's hearers at Rome entreated Mark, the follower of Peter, to leave with them in writing a memorial of the doctrine which had been delivered to them by word of mouth ; nor did they desist until they had prevailed with him. And it is said that, when the apostle knew what had been done, he was pleased with the zeal of the men, and authorised that scripture to be read in the churches.” Tertullian adds: “ The Gospel published by Mark may be accounted the Gospel of Peter, whose interpreter he was.” And Irenæus speaks of him as “ the disciple and interpreter of Peter.”
We find in the Acts of the Apostles that Mark went from Jerusalem with Paul and Barnabas, and, when they were sent forth by the Holy Ghost to preach the Gospel, accompanied them as their minister, or attendant, to Seleucia, Cyprus, and as far as Perga, in Pamphylia, whence he returned to Jerusalem, declining to attend them through their whole progress. This was the cause of a dispute and separation between Paul and Barnabas afterwards, for when
they were about to set out again from Antioch on a second progress, Barnabas desired to take his nephew Mark with them this second time also, but Paul refused to let him come, because he had departed from them on the former occasion from Pamphylia. Each adhering to his own opinion, they necessarily aban. doned the design of travelling together, and so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus, while Paul chose Silas, and went through Syria and Cilicia con. firming the churches. Subsequently, however, Mark accompanied St. Timothy to Roine, to visit St. Paul during his imprisonment in that city, at the express desire of the illustrious prisoner himself, who on this occasion eulogises him to Timothy as profitable for the ministry. From Rome it is probable he went into Asia, where he found St. Peter, with whom it is supposed he returned to Rome again, and there wrote, under the direction and guidance, if not the actual dictation, of that apostle, the Gospel which bears his name, and which was published among the Roman Christians, for whose especial use it was intended, about the year 62. After this, St. Mark travelled into Egypt, and planted a church in Alexandria, where he died, in the 8th year of the reign of the emperor Nero.
The Gospel of St. Mark affords but few incidents in the life of our Lord which are not recorded by the other Evangelists. It seems to be strictly limited to a narrative of those occurrences at which St. Peter was personally present, but in these it does supply us with many circumstantial particulars not to be found elsewhere.