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THE

NEW, COMPLETE, AND AUTHENTIC

LIVES

OF THE

APOSTLES, EVANGELISTS, DISCIPLES &c.

Of our blessed LORD and SAVIOUR,

JESUS CHRIST.

VOL. ii.

THE

NEW, COMPLETE, AND AUTHENTIC

LIVES

OF THE

APOSTLES, EVANGELISTS, DISCIPLES, &c.

Of our blessed LORD and SAVIOUR,

JESUS CHRIST.

THE LIFE OF ST. MATTHEW,

The Evangelist and Apostle.

THIS evangelist was also called Levi, and, though a Roman officer, was a true Hebrew, and probably a Galilean. Kirsten, an Arabian author, tells us, that he was born at Nazareth, a city in the tribe of Zebulon, famous for the habitation of Joseph and Mary, and the place where our blessed Saviour resided the whole time of his private life. St. Matthew was the son of Alpheus and Mary, sister, or kinswoman to the blessed Virgin, both originally descended from the tribe of Issachar.

The occupation of Matthew was that of a publi. can, or tax-gatherer to the Romans, an office detested by the generality of the Jews. Amongst the Romans, indeed, it was accounted a place of power and credit,

a and, as such, rarely conferred on any but Roman knights: and T. FI. Sabimus, father of the emperor Vespasian, was the publican of the Asian provinces, an office which he discharged so greatly to the satisfaction of the public, that they erected statues to him. These officers being sent into the provinces to gather the tributes, generally employed the natives under them, as persons best skilled in the affairs and customs of their own country.

On two accounts, this office was odious to the Jews. First, because the persons who managed it were generally covetous and great exactors; for having themselves farmed the customs of the Romans, they used every method of oppression, in order to pay their rents to the Romans and procure an advantage to themselves. Of this Zaccheus, the chief of these farmers, was very sensible after his conversion, when he offered to make a fourfold restitution to all from whom he had taken any thing by fraud and extortion. And upon this account they became infamous, even amongst the Gentiles themselves, who commonly mention them as public robbers, and though members of the community, were more voracious and destructive in a city than wild beasts in a forest. The other particular which rendered them so hateful to the Jews, was the tribute they demanded, which they considered not only as a burden, but also as an affront to their nation ; for they looked upon themselves as a free people, having received that privilege immediately from God himself; and therefore they considered this tribute as a daily and standing instance of their slavery, which they detested above every thing; and it was this that betrayed them into so many rebellions against the Romans. We may add, that these publicans were obliged by their office to have frequent dealings and conversation with the Gentiles, which the Jews considered as an abomination; and though they were themselves Jews, they rigorously exacted the taxes of their brethren, and thereby seemed to conspire with the Romans to entail perpetual slavery on their own countrymen.

The publicans, by these practices, became universally abhorred by the Jewish nation, so that it was reckoned unlaw.ful to assist them in the common offices of humanity: nay, they asserted it was no crime to cheat and over-reach a publican, though they broke the solemnity of an oath: they might not eat or drink, converse or travel with them; they were considered as common thieves and robbers, and the money received of them was not permitted to be deposited with others, considering it as gained by rapine and violence; they were not admitted to give testiinony in any court of justice; they were looked upon in so infamous a light, that they were not only banished from all communication in matters of divine worship, but shunned in all affairs of civil society and commerce, as the pests of their country, as persons whose conversation was infectious and not at all better than the Heathens themselves. And hence they had a common proverb amongst them, 'Take not a wife out of that family in which there is a publican; for they are all publicans! that is, they are all thieves, robbers, and wicked sinners. And to this proverbial custom our blessed Saviour alludes, when speaking of a hardened sinner, on whom neither private reproofs, nor the public censures and admonitions of the church, can prevail, Let him be to thee as an Heathen man and publican; or, in other words, an incorrigible sinner.

St. Matthew the evangelist was of this profession, and he seems to have been more particularly employed in collecting the customs on commodities that came by sea into Galilee, and the tribute which passengers were to pay who went by water: and for this purpose the office or custom-house stood by the sea-side, that the officers might be always at hand: and here it was, as St. Mark intimates, that Matthew sat at the receipt of custom, where the tribute-money was collected.

a

After having cured a person long aflicted with the palsy, our blessed Lord retired out of Capernaum, to

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