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to inform the people of his advent among them, and to prepare the way for the introduction of the Gospel. He gave to these messengers a miraculous power to heal all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease.
Now, it might be supposed, that men, living under the eye of their Master, witnesses of his mighty deeds and wonders, and possessing in themselves a virtue which rendered diseases and devils subject to them, would have felt the most assured confidence in their cause, and never have mistrusted their own powers, nor mistaken their Master's objects. Yet nothing is farther from the fact. They were, as is usual with men of low extraction and limited attainments, destitute of every feeling which constitutes greatness and independency of mind. The prejudices of their birth and rank they could not
Bred up with an idea that Messiah was to be a temporal prince, this erroneous bias of their early years they were unable to remove. blessed Lord said, they knew not what spirit they
Their passions and their interests were constantly interfering with the spiritual nature of their calling, and it required a patience equal to the Son of God's, to bear with their dullness and correct their mistakes. They seem to have entertained a mixed view of our Saviour's character: they held him to be a teacher sent from God, and capable by his power of inverting the order of nature, and of commanding the elements to obey him, yet destined to be the deliverer of his country from a foreign
yoke, and its restorer to rank and authority among independent states. They were, moreover, extremely superstitious, the result of the want of a sound education; and their timidity and their rashness very strikingly exemplify the influence of this disposition on their minds. They were afraid of spirits, which is the lowest kind of superstition, whilst they could walk upon the sea, or oppose sword to sword, with a temerity that is truly astonishing. It is very surprising to observe how long they were in entering into their Master's views, when he was desirous of elevating their ideas above the world; and though they saw him raise the dead, yet they seem to have had no notion of his ability to raise himself. When, on his last journey to Jerusalem, he took them apart, and began to unfold the events which were soon to befall him, though he did it by degrees, repeating the communication three several times, and each time enlarging upon the subject, and rendering the particulars clearer and more distinct, yet they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him. Peter, indeed, undertook to rebuke him for it, as striking at the root of all their fond expectations of his temporal glory; and so strongly were they at this time possessed with the notion of his regal dominion, that James and John make the singular request that they may sit, the one on his right hand and the other on his left in his kingdom. They had before enquired of him, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? and these disputes about precedency mark well the ambitious thoughts which governed their minds. His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, amid the spreading of palm-branches, and the acclamations of the crowd, was in perfect unison with the secret wish they indulged; and when the great body of the disciples, now swelled to a large multitude, began to cry out, “Blessed be the king that cometh in the name of the Lord,” they thought that their object was about to be accomplished. Had the distinct and solemn warnings which they received upon their journey, that he was going up to Jerusalem expressly to suffer, been at all comprehended by them, and had cast, in consequence, a shade of despondency across their hopes, this triumphal entry would have dispelled it at once. His death, at this particular juncture, seems to have been the last thing they contemplated. That mournful and affecting speech,“ Verily, verily, I say unto you, one of you shall betray me,” filled them with uneasiness : but still they did not understand its import. Nay, even, when they entered the garden, they were not prepared for the events which were going to happen, nor was it till the guard had actually seized and bound their Master, that they entertained any apprehensions for his safety. Their conduct, in this eventful crisis, is a standing evidence of the nature of their views. Like the adherents of an aspiring chief, who had been suddenly captured, and whose fall put an end to the whole plan of the enterprise, they all forsook him and fled. Two of their number, however, Peter and John, soon rallied, and followed at a distance to the scene of his trial, but such was the excessive fear and alarm of Peter, that even a maid servant's observation caused him to deny his acquaintance. At the crucifixion, when their Master was executed, John, the beloved disciple, had alone the courage to appear; and such was the dismay in which they stood, that, when the news of his resurrection was first promulgated, they met in secrecy, with closed doors, like men in terror for their lives. Every step they took manifested caution. Every action betrayed their fears. When Jesus himself appeared among them, their superstition got the better of their reason, and his presence, at first, filled them with alarm instead of comfort. Even then, they seem not to have had the most distant conception of the true nature of his kingdom. On the contrary, during the forty days in which, at intervals, he conversed with them, those hopes of temporal dominion, which had been quashed at his death, regained possession of their hearts; and the very last question they put to him before he ascended up to heaven, referred directly to them, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel ?” His answer, followed as it was by his immediate and visible ascension, put a final end to this delusion: “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things,
while they beheld, he was taken up and a cloud received him out of their sight.”
Thus have we seen in this brief sketch of the hopes and opinions of the Apostles, how secular they were in their notions of the object of our blessed Lord's ministry, how difficult of instruction, how ambitious of worldly power and authority, how superstitious in principle, how frail in purpose, and how pusillanimous in the hour of danger and of death. From the first call they received from Christ, till the last moment of his manifestation of himself on earth, they were possessed with an idea that temporal greatness was the prime object of his mission, and that they, as the companions of his toil and danger, should share at length in the triumphs of his reign. What was it then which changed their views, and so entirely altered every feeling of their hearts and every long established desire of their lives, that they let go at once every fond partiality for former prejudices, and became, as we shall shortly see, quite other men. This is the second period of their history.
II. The sacred writer of the Acts of the Apostles informs us, that “ when the day of Pentecost was fully come, there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Now, immediately on this wonderful event taking