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A. St. Peter declared, that as God had accepted the Gentile converts, by giving them the Holy Ghost as well as the Jews, the yoke of the Jewish rites ought not to be laid on them. But he afterwards, by his conduct, sanctioned the prejudices of the Judaizing Christians; for which he was severely rebuked by St. Paul.b
Q. How was St. Peter preserved from the cruel designs of Herod ?
A. When St. Peter was put in prison by the command of Herod, and strictly guarded by soldiers, and secured in chains, God was pleased to hear the fervent prayers of the Church in his behalf. The night before his intended execu. tion, the angel of the Lord came unto him, roused him from sleep, knocked off his chains, and conducted him to a place of safety. In the morning Herod was so exasperated with the keepers of the prison, that he commanded them to be put to death.
Q. Where did St. Peter afterwards bestow his apostolical labours?
A. After this wonderful miracle wrought for his preservation, it is said St. Peter fled to Antioch, preached the Gospel in that city, and was the first Bishop of that Church. He afterwards preached the Gospel to the Jews dispersed in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Asia. Towards the latter end of his life, and in the reign of Nero, he settled at Rome, where he preached the Gospel to the Jews, being the apostle of the circumcision, and where he defeated the arts of the impostor Simon Magus.
Q. When did St. Peter suffer martyrdom ?
A. St. Peter suffered martyrdom about the year of Christ sixty-nine, under Nero. The manner of his death was by crucifixion, with his head downwards. He affirmed that he was unworthy to suffer in the same posture wherein his Lord had suffered before him.
Q. Was not St. Peter a married man?
A. The primitive fathers have generally ranked Peter among the married apostles; as the Scriptures make mention of his wife's mother.d
Q. What are the writings of this apostle?
A. This apostle has left two epistles addressed to the Jewish converts who were scattered through Pontus, Galatia, &c. The principal design of the first epistle is to com
Gal. ii, 11, &c.
c Euseb. Hist. Eccle. lib, üi. c. 1.
1 Pet. i. 1.
fort and confirm them under those “ fiery trials” and “mani. fold temptations”- to which they were then subject;f and to direct and instruct them how to behave themselves in the several states and relations of the civil and the Christian life ; & that they might not be engaged in those rebellions against Cesar that were then fomented among the Jews, and might stop the mouths of those who spake against them as evil doers. In the second epistle he prosecutes the same subject, to prevent their “ apostacy" from the faith,” their W turning away from the holy commandment," and their “ falling
from their own steadfastness,” by reason of the persecutions which assailed them. He guards them also against the corrupt principles of the sect of the Gnostics, who turned " the grace of God into lasciviousness;” and also against those * scoffers" at the promise of Christ's coming, as if it would never be verified.
Q. What instruction may we derive from the celebration of this festival ?
A. The superior love and affection which St. Peter manifested for his Master, which led him to expose himself to the greatest hazards, should inflame our hearts with the most sincere and lively love for our divine Master: the most elevated and supreme affection is due to him who saves us from death eternal, and bestows on man an inheritance immortal and undefiled. The sad instance of human infirmity in Peter's denial of his Master, and the contrition which he afterwards manifested, should lead us not only, after his example, to bewail our follies and transgressions, but always to be on our guard against temptation, and not to depend too much on our own strength, lest we provoke God to humble us by withdrawing from us his grace.
Q. When may we be said to rely too much on our own strength
A. We discover self-confidence and presumption when we neglect those means of grace which are established in order to enable us to discharge our duty; when we rush into temptations, presuming upon our own capacity to encounter them; when, in those trials which the providence of God brings upon us, we trust more to our own resolution than his divine assistance, and, consequently, remit that watchfulness and prayer which are so necessary to secure us; when we do not avoid those situations which, by fatal expe
(1 Pet. iv. 12; i. 6.
& 1 Pet. ä. 18-23.
h 2 Pet. ii. 21; jü. 17.
rience, we have found fatal to our virtue ; and when we are not suspicious of our own hearts, of their weakness and corruption, which make us so prone to be overcome when we are assaulted by temptation.
Q. What are the bad effects of this self-confident temper ?
A. This self-confident temper often leads us to undertake what we have neither capacity nor ability to perform: it makes us neglect those previous precautions which are ne'cessary to insure success in what we undertake ; and it frequently provokes God to withdraw his grace, on which we place so little value,
Q. What considerations should we apply in order to subdue this self-confident temper?
A. In order to subdue this self-confident temper, we should consider the weakness and frailty of our own nature, how unable we are of ourselves to do any thing that is good. We should reflect how many men, eminent for piety and virtue, from too great confidence in themselves, have fallen into sin. We should, therefore, always earnestly pray for the aids of divine grace to direct and strengthen us. On this divine grace, while at the same time we are diligent and watchful, we should humbly depend, remembering that sufficiency is of God."
A. St. James the apostle, commonly surnamed the Great, either for his age, or some peculiar honour conferred on him by Christ, was a Galilean, born probably at Bethsaida or Capernaum. He was the son of Zebedee, an eminent fisher. man at those places. He was brother to St. John, and they both had the honour of being related to our blessed Saviour; their mother Mary, named Salome, being either sister or cousin-german to the blessed Virgin.
i Matt. iv. 21,
Q. How was St. James called to be an apostle ?
A. St. James diligently applied himself to his father's trade. And as he, with his brother, was one day fishing in the sea of Galilee, our Saviour passing along the shore, called to them to follow him, and to be his disciples, promising to make them fishers of men.
This command they readily obeyed, and left not only their employment, but their father Zebedee, with his servants and ship, and became constant attendants upon Christ in his ministry.j
Q. What new name was conferred by our Saviour on St. James and his brother St. John ?
A. After our Saviour had admitted them into this intimate union, he surnamed them Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder ;k thereby signifying the victorious and resistless power of their preaching, and the profound and impressive strain in which they should teach the great mysteries of the Gospel.
Q. Was there not something in the temper of these apos. tles that might give occasion to this title ?
A. The natural warmth of temper in these apostles, which particularly appeared in their zeal to destroy those Samaritans who refused to receive our Saviour because he was going to Jerusalem,' might give occasion to the title that was bestowed on them.
Q. What was probably the reason that the Samaritans re. fused to our Saviour the common acts of hospitality ?
A. The Samaritans lived in the greatest enmity with all the Jews; and our Saviour seemed to slight mount Gerizim, the solemn place of their worship, “ his face being as though he would go to Jerusalem.” After the tribe of Judah had returned from the captivity of Babylon, and the temple of Jerusalem was rebuilt, the Jews were, by a solemn covenant, obliged to put away their heathen wives. But Sanballat, governor of Samaria, having married his daughter to Manasses, a Jewish priest, who was unwilling to put away his wife, excited the Samaritans to build a temple upon mount Gerizim, near the city of Samaria, in opposition to the temple at Jerusalem, and made his son-in-law, Manasses, priest there. Thus was the foundation laid of an irreconcileable difference between the Jews and Samaritans; which, in process of time, grew so great, that they would not so much as show common civility to one another.
j Matt. iv. 21, &c.
k Mark ii, 17.
1 Luke ix. 54. u Joseph. Antiq. lib. i. c. 8.
Q. Did not our Saviour rebuke the intemperate zeal of these apostles ?
A. Our Saviour rebuked the intemperate zeal of these apostles, as being contrary to the meek spirit of the Gospel, and his design of coming into the world ; which was to save men's lives, by establishing a religion that not only consults their eternal salvation, but their temporal peace and security.
P. Did not the apostles St. James and St. John manifest also an ambitious temper?
A. The apostles, during the life of the Saviour, seemed to entertain the erroneous idea, that their Master would soon declare himself, what they supposed their Messiah must cer. tainly be, a temporal prince. Under the influence of this erroneous expectation, St. James and St. John prompted their mother to request of Christ, that her two sons might be the most considerable persons in his kingdom, and have the nearest places to his person.
Q. Did not our Saviour correct this ambitious disposition ?
A. Christ soon made them sensible of the rashness of their demand, by telling them, that in his kingdom the highest place would be for those who underwent the greatest troubles and sufferings; and that the dignities of his kingdom would be dispensed to them for whom they were prepared by the Father.
Q. How did our Saviour calm the passions of the rest of the disciples, who were offended at this request ?
A. Our Saviour silenced the rising resentment of the other disciples, by instructing them in the humble and self-denying nature of his kingdom ; and by exciting them to imitate his example, who came “not to be ministered unto, but to minister."
Q. What became of St. James after our Saviour's ascension ?
A. St. James preached the Gospel in Judea and Samaria ; and, by the command of Herod, being seized at Jerusalem, he there suffered martyrdom, being the first apostle who laid down his life for the testimony of Jesus.
Q. What instruction does this festival afford us? A. The humble calling which St. James and his family followed, at the time he was chosen by Christ to be his disciple, should teach us, that the blessing of God attends