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This apostle did not confine himself to Alexandria, and the oriental parts of Egypt, but removed westward to Lybia, passing through the countries of Marmarcia, Pentapolis, and others adjacent, where though the people were both barbarous in their manners, and idolatrous in their worship, yet by his preaching and miracles, he prevailed on them to embrace the tenets of the gospel; nor did he leave them till he had confirmed them in the faith of his divine Master.
He returned, after his long tour, to Alexandria, where he preached with the greatest freedom, ordered and disposed of the affairs of the church, and wisely provided for a succession, by constituting governors and pastors of it. But the restless enemy of the souls of men, would not suffer our apostle to continue in peace and quietness; for while he was assiduously labouring in the vineyard of his Master the idolatrous inhabitants about the time of Easter, when they were celebrating the solemnities of Serapis, tumultuously entered the church, forced St. Mark, then performing divine service, from thence, and binding his feet with cords, dragged him through the streets, and over the most craggy places to the Bucelus, a precipice near the sea, leaving him there in a lonesome prison for that night; but his great and beloved Master appeared to him in a vision, comforting and encouraging his soul, under the ruins of his shattered body. The next morning early, the tragedy began afresh, dragging him about in the same cruel and barbarous manner, till he expired: but their malice did not end with his death, they burnt his mangled body, after they had so inhumanly deprived it of life; but the Christians, after the hellish tragedy was over, gathered up his bones and ashes, and decently interred them near the place where he used to preach. His remains were afterwards, with great pomp, removed from Alexandria to Venice, where they are religiously honoured, and he adopted as the titular saint and patron of that state and people. He suffered martyrdom on the 25th of April, but the year is not absolutely known; the most probable opinion however is, that it happened about the end of Nero's reign.
As to his person, St. Mark was of a middle size and stature, his nose long, his eyebrows turning back, his eyes graceful and amiable, his head bald, his beard thick and grey, his gait quick, and the constitution of his body strong and healthful.
The only writing he left behind him, was his gospel, written as we have before observed, at the entreaty and earnest desire of the converts at Rome, who not content to have heard St. Peter preach, pressed St. Mark his disciple, to commit to writing, an historical account of what he had delivered to them, which he performed with equal faithfulness and brevity, and being perused and approved by St. Peter, was commanded to be publicly read in their assemblies. It was frequently styled St. Peter's gospel, not because he dictated it to St. Mark, but because the latter composed it from the accounts St. Peter usually delivered in his discourses to the people: and this is probably the reason of what St. Chrysostom observes, that in his style and manner of ex. pression, he delights to imitate St. Peter, representing a great deal in a few words. The remarkable impartiality he observed in all his relations, is plain, from hence, that he is so far from concealing the shameful lapse and denial of Peter, his dear tutor and master, that he describes it with more aggravating circumstances than any of the other evangelists. The Venetians pretend to have the original Greek copy of St. Mark's gospel, written with his own hand : but this manu. script, if written by St. Mark, is now useless, the very letters being rendered illegible by length of time.
ST. LUKE THE EVANGELIST.
ST. LUKE was born at Antioch, the metropolis of Syria, a city celebrated for the pleasantness of its situation, the fertility of its soil, the riches of its com. merce, the wisdom of its senate, and the civility and politeness of its inhabitants, by the pens of some of the greatest orators of those times. It was eminent for schools of learning, which produced the most renowned masters in the arts and sciences; so that being born as it were, in the lap of the muses, he could not wel fail of acquiring an ingenuous and liberal education : but he was not contented with the learning of his own country, he travelled for improvement into several parts of Greece and Egypt, and became particularly skilled in physic, which he made his profession.
They who would, from this particular, infer the quality of his birth and fortune, seem to forget that the healing art was, in these early times, generally practised by servants; and hence Grotius is of opinion that St. Luke was carried to Rome, and lived there a servant to some noble family, in quality of a physician : but after obtaining his freedom, he returned into to his own country, and probably continued his profession till his death, it being so highly consistent with, and in many. cases subservient to, the care of souls. He is also famous for his skill in another art, namely, painting, and an ancient inscription was found in a vault near the church of St. Maria de Via Lata, at Rome, supposed to have been the place, where St. Paul dwelt, which mentions a picture of the blessed Virgin, UNA EX vii. AB LUCA DEPICTIS, being one of the seven painted by St. Luke.
It is not certainly known when St. Luke became a Christian, after having been a jewish proselyte: those who understand him in the beginning of his gospel, to say that he had the facts from the reports of others, who were eye witnesses, suppose him to have been convert
ed by St. Paul, and that he learned the history of his gospel from the conversation of that apostle, and wrote it under his direction; and that when St. Paul, in one of his epistles, says, according to my gospel, he means this of St. Luke, which he styles his, from the great share he had in its composition.
They, on the other hand, who hold that he wrote his gospel from his own personal knowledge, observe, that he could not receive it from St. Paul, as an eye-witness of the matter contained in it, because all those matters were transacted before his conversion; and that he never saw our Lord before he appeared to him in his journey to Damascus, which was some time after he ascended into heaven. Consequently, when St. Paul says, according to my gospel, he means no more than the gospel in general which he preached; the whole preaching of the apostles, styled the gospel, all having an uniform tendency to inculcate and establish the faith and prac. tice of the Christian religion.
But they further observe, that it is not probable that St. Luke was converted by St Paul, because the latter would in that case have styled him his son, it being the constant practice of the apostles to call all eminent converts by that appellation ; but he mentions him by the name of Luke, the beloved physician. They therefore suppose that he studied the law in one of the schools of Jerusalem, where he was converted by our Lord, and was one of the seventy disciples mentioned in Scripture.
However this be, St. Luke became the inseparable companion of St. Paul in all his travels, and his constant fellow-labourer in the work of the ministry; he followed him in all his dangers, was with him at his several arraignments at Jerusalem, accompanied him in his tedious and dangerous voyage to Rome, where he still at. tended on him, to administer to him in his necessities, and supply those ministerial offices, which the apostle's confinement would not suffer him to undertake; and especially in carrying messages to other churches, where he had planted the Christian religion. This infinitely endeared him to St. Paul, who seemed delighted with owning him for his fellow-labourer and in calling him the beloved physician, and the brother whose praise is in the gospel, 2 Cor. viii, 18.
It is very probable, he did not leave St. Paul till he had finished his course, and received the crown of mar. tyrdom; though some tell us, that he left St. Paul at Rome, and returned back into the East, travelling into Egypt and several parts of Lybia, where he preached the gospel, wrought miracles, converted multitudes, and constituted guides and ministers of religion ; nay that he himself undertook the episcopal charge of the city of Thebais. Epiphanius tells us, that he first preached in Dalmatia and Galatia, then in Italy and Macedonia, where he spared no pains, and declined no dangers, that he might faithfully discharge the trust committed to him by his great Master.
The time or manner of his death are not very well agreed upon by the ancients; some affirming him to die in Egypt, others in Greece, the Roman martyrology in Bythinia, and Dorothæus at Ephesus; some will have that he died a natural, and others a violent death. Indeed, neither Eusebius nor St. Jerom take any notice of it, but Gregory Nazianzen, Paulinus bishop of Nola, and several others, expressly assert, that he suffered martyrdom; and Nicephorus gives us this particular account of it: “ That coming into Greece, he successfully preached the gospel, and baptised many converts into the Christian faith, till, at last, a party of infidels opposed his doctrines; but being unable to silence him by reason and argument, they had recourse to cruelty, dragged ". im from the place where he was teaching the gospel, and hung him on an olive tree, in the eightieth, or according to St. Jerom, in the eighty fourth year of
Kirstenius thinks, he suffered martyrdom at Rome soon after St. Pauls first imprisonment be