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time in perfecting their minds by precepts of wisdom and religion; the day they wholly spend in pious and divine meditations, in reading and expounding the law and the prophets, and the holy volumes of the ancient founders of their sect, and in singing Psalms to the honour of their Maker; absolutely temperate and abstemious, neither eating nor drinking till night, the only time they think proper to refresh and regale the body; and some of them out of an insatiable desire of growing in knowledge and virtue, fast many days together. Their diet is plain and simple, sufficient only to satisfy the calls of nature, a little bread, salt, and water being their constant bill of fare. Their clothes are as mean as their food, designed only as present security against cold and naked. ness. Nor is this the case only of the men, but also of the pious and devout women that live amongst them; who religiously observe every seventh day, and especially the preparatory week to the great solemnity, which they keep with all expressions of sincere devotion, and also with severe abstinence.'
Eusebius affirms, that these excellent persons were Christians, converted and brought under such admirable rules and institutions by St. Mark at his coming hither, accommodating all passages to the manner and discipline of the Christians; and is followed by Epi. phanius, Jerom, and others. But whoever seriously and impartially considers Philo's account, will plainly find, that he intends it of the Jews, and professors of the Mosaic religion, though what particular sect they were, I shall not pretend to determine ; perhaps they were Essenes: but however that be, it is plain they were not Christians; for Philo speaks of them as an institution of some standing; whereas, the Christians had but very lately appeared in the world, especially in Egypt: besides, many parts of Philo's account does not in several parts agree with the state and manners of the Christians at that time; as that they withdrew themselves from public conversation, and all the af,
fairs of civil life, which the Christians never did, but when forced to it by violent persecutions; for at other times, as Justin Martyr, and Tertulian tells us, they mixed themselves promiscuously with the inhabitants of the country, dwelt in towns and cities, ploughed their lands, and followed their respective trades and callings like other men. Nor can the books which Philo tells us they had, besides those of Moses and the prophets, be understood of those of the Christians; for the writings of the evangelists had been very lately published, and consequently could not come under the character of ancient authors. Not to mention that some of their ceremonies were such as the Christians of those days were absolute strangers to, not being introduced into the church till some ages after Philo wrote his account: nay, some of them were never used by the primitive Christians, especially their religious dances, which Philo particularly describes, as used by them at their festival solemnities, especially that remarkable one which they observed at the end of every seven weeks; when their entertainment being ended, they all rose up, the men in one company and the woman in another, dancing with various measures and motions, each company singing divine hymns and songs, and having a precentor going before each division, singing alternately; till, in the conclusion, they joined in one common chorus, in imitation of the triumphant song sung by Moses and the Israelites, after their great deliverance at the Red Sea, from the hostile attempts of Pharaoh and his
From these, and several other particulars that might be mentioned, it will appear, that these could not be Christians; it is not indeed to be doubted, but that persons educated under such excellent rules and meihods of life, were more than ordinarily prepared for the reception of Christianity, and could not fail of rendering St. Mark's success surprising in those parts, and open a path for men to come in multitudes to embrace the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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 cyebrows 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 expression, 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 manuscript, if written by St. Mark, is now useless, the very letters being rendered illegible by length of time.
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 commerce, 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