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Persian governors of the neighboring provinces, so as to cause them to cease from their labor for a period of about fourteen years, supposing the time to complete the building was not yet come. But God disposing Darius the emperor, to renew the decree of Cyrus, raised up Haggai to encourage them in the work, which was then finished in a few years. Zechariah. Zechariah was contemporary and a fellowlaborer with Haggai in the prophetic ministry; and the design of his writings was the same as that of his inspired colleague. JMalachi. Malachi was the last of the inspired prophets under the Old Testament dispensation. He exercised his ministry about a hundred and twenty years after the return of the Jews from captivity in Babylon; and about four hundred and twenty years before the birth of Christ. The temple having been built, and the city being in a prosperous condition at the death of Nehemiah, the Jews, though retaining the forms of religion, became grossly hypocritical, profane, and wicked. Malachi was therefore raised up to call them once more to repentance, and to promote a revival of true religion among them.
The title Testament, which is given more especially to this latter part of the holy scriptures, is taken from a Greek word, which properly signifies covenant. It is translated testament in Matt. xxvi. 28. Heb. ix. 15–17, but covenant, Heb. viii. 7–9, and in most other places.
The books of the New Testament are twentyseven in number; and they are commonly classed in three divisions, historical, doctrinal and prophetical. Of the first class, are the gospels according to the records of the evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and the Acts of the Apostles. The second includes twentyone epistles, or letters, which were addressed by the apostles to several of the first churches, and to individual Christians. The book of the Revelation constitutes the third division.
Matthew, or Levi, the apostle and evangelist, was the son of Alpheus. Before his call to the apostleship, he was a publican, or tax-collector in the employ of the Roman government. This was an office of very bad repute among the Jews, partly because of the covetous exactions of those who were appointed to it, and partly because it was a proof of their being subject to a foreign power. Matthew was a custom-house officer, and his business consisted in collecting the duties on all the merchandise that came by the sea of Galilee to Capernaum, and the tribute payable by passengers who travelled by water. This lucrative post he cheerfully relinquished for the sake of Christ, on whom he became a faithful attendant, and was an eye-witness of his miracles.
Matthew continued with the rest of the apostles till after the ascension of Christ; but little is known of him subsequently to that event. It is related that for eight years he preached the gospel in Judea, and then went to promulgate the faith of Christ among the Gentiles. He labored to evangelize Ethiopia, Persia, and Parthia, and at length suffered martyrdom at Nadabbar, in Asiatic Ethiopia, being slain by a halbert, A. D. 62. His only writings are the evangelical history, which bears his name.
M A R K . Mark, the evangelist, whose Hebrew name was John, was the son of a pious woman of Jerusalem, at whose house the apostles and first Christians frequently met for prayer, Acts xii. 12. He is supposed to have been con
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verted by the ministry of Peter, who calls him his son, 1 Pet. v. 13. Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas in their missionary labors through several countries, but, declining to attend them through their whole progress, he returned to the apostles at Jerusalem, Acts xiii. 5–12. We find him afterwards at Antioch, Acts xv. 37. whence he went with Barnabas to Cyprus. He subsequently accompanied Timothy to Rome, 2 Tim. iv. 11. from which, it is believed, he went into Asia, where he found Peter, with whom, it is thought, he again returned to Rome, Col. iv. 10. and wrote the gospel which is called by his name. L U K E .
Luke, the evangelist, was a native of Antioch, and by profession a physician. Some suppose he was one of the seventy disciples of Christ, but this appears incorrect from his own remarks at the beginning of his gospel. He was the faithful and constant companion of Paul in his various travels, labors, and sufferings. He wrote his gospel in Achaia, about A. D. 63, and the Acts of the Apostles about A. D. 64. Both these books were dedicated particularly to a Christian of distinction named Theophilus, as is supposed, an Egyptian. By some, Luke is said to have suffered martyrdom under the Roman emperor Nero ; but others affirm that he was hanged upon an olive tree in Greece by a party of pagans.
J O H. N. John, the evangelist and apostle, was the son of Zebedee, a fisherman of Bethsaida, a town of Galilee. He and his brother James were called by Christ to be his apostles; and, on account of their powerful eloquence, they were surnamed by him, Boanerges, sons of thunder. John was prečminently beloved by his Lord; and to his affection
he committed the care of his mother when on the cross. Leaving Judea before the destruction of Jerusalem, he labored chiefly in Asia Minor, particularly at Ephesus. The churches in Pergamus, Thyatira, Philadelphia and Laodicea, are believed to have been founded by him.
In the persecution under Domitian, the Roman emperor, John is said to have been put into a cauldron of boiling oil, in which he stood four hours unhurt. Being taken out, he was banished to the isle of Patmos, where he was favored with the glorious visions of the exalted Saviour, and was inspired to write the book of the Revelation. From this island he returned the next year, and resided chiefly at Ephesus, until A. D. 100, when, beloved by all, and at the advanced age of about a hundred years, he died in peace among his fellow-christians. The three epistles, and the gospel, which bear the name of John, were written by this apostle.
Paul was an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin, and both of his parents were Hebrews. He was a native of Tarsus, in Cilicia, and by birth a free citizen of imperial Rome. Before his call to the apostleship, he was known by his Hebrew name Saul; but he used Paul, his Roman name, among the Gentiles. His parents sent him early to Jerusalem to study the Jewish law under the direction of Gamaliel, the most celebrated doctor of his nation. The improvement of the pupil corresponded with the fame of his master, and all his influence and talents were devoted to preserve the Jewish traditionary corruptions, to destroy the church of Christ, and to extirpate even the name of Christian.
But in the very midst of his murderous career, while “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the dis
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ciples of the Lord,” sovereign grace and mercy renewed his heart, and he consecrated all his powers to the service of Christ.
J. A. M. E. S.
James was called the Iless, to distinguish him from James the brother of John, who was put to death by Herod, Acts xii. He was the son of Alpheus Cleophas, and he is called the Lord's brother, because he was of the kindred of the virgin Mary. On account of the admirable holiness of . his life, he was surnamed the Just. He is mentioned as having been the first bishop of the Christian church at Jerusalem, where he was venerated even by the Jews for his sanctity. However, Ananias the high priest, with the scribes and pharisees, called him, at the passover, to stand upon the porch of the temple, to satisfy the doubting minds of the people concerning the faith of Christ; but being enraged that his doctrine was received by many, they threw him down from the battlements: and, while he was praying for his barbarous murderers, some of them beat him on the head with a fuller's club, and killed him on the spot. Thus he was martyred by the lawless Jews, while the Roman governor was absent from Jerusalem, A. D. 62. This apostle wrote the epistle which bears the name of James.
P E T E R .
Peter, son of Jonas, and brother of Andrew the apostle, was a native of Bethsaida. His original name was Simon, but Jesus called him Cephas, or, as it is interpreted, Peter, both words having the like signification, denoting a stone or rock, and intimating the great necessity of stability in faith and duty. Peter was among the most faithful and zealous of the disciples of Christ: but his zeal, on some occasions, led him even to precipitancy and rashness, which occasioned his dreadful fall and criminal denial of his Lord,