« הקודםהמשך »
AN ACCOUNT OF ST. THOMAS
The Apostle. THE
HE Jews, when they travelled into foreign countries, or familiarly conversed with the Greeks and Ro. mans, were wont to assume a Latin name of the same signification, or at least that bore some affinity with that by which they were known in their own country. Thus our blessed Saviour was called CHRIST, answer. ing to his Hebrew title Messiah, the anointed : Simon who was called Cephas in Hebrew, was styled Petros in Greek, both signifying a rock: Tabitha, was called Dorcas, both signifying a goat: and thus Thomas, according to the Syriac import of his name, was called Dydimus, a twin, which is the meaning of both appellations.
There is no mention in the evangelical history either of the country or kindred of St. Thomas : it is hoir, cver certain that he was a Jew, and in all probability a Galilean. Metaphrastes tells us, that he was decender! from very mean parents, who brought him up to the trade of fishing ; but at the same time, took care to give him a more useful education, instructing him in the knowledge of the Scripture, whereby he learned wisely to regulate his conduct.
This apostle was, together with the rest, called to the apostleship and not long after gave an eminent instance of his being ready to undergo the most melancholy fate that might attend him : for when the rest of the apostles were dissuading their Master from going into Judea at the time of Lazarus's death, because the Jews lately endeavoured to stone him, Thomas desired them not to hinder his journey thither, though it might cost them all their lives : Let us go, said he, that we may die with him : concluding that instead of Lazarus being raised
from the dead, they should all, like him, be placed in the chambers of the dust.
The holy Jesus, a little before his suffering, had been speaking to them of the joys of heaven, and had told them, that he was going to prepare mansions for them, that they might follow him, and that they knew both the place whither he was going, and the way thither; on hearing this, our apostle replied, that they knew not whither he was going, much less the way that would lead them thither. To which our Lord returned this short but satisfactory answer, I am the way ; I am the person whom the Father hath sent into the world to shew mankind the paths that lead to eternal life, and therefore you cannot miss the way if you follow my example, and obey my precepts.
The minds of the disciples, who had seen their great Master expire on the cross, were distracted by hopes and fears concerning his resurrection, about which they were not then fully satisfied which engaged him the sooner to hasten his appearance, that by the sensible manifestations of himself he might put the matter be. yond all possibility of dispute. Accordingly, the very day on which he arose from the dead, he came into the house where they were assembled, while, for fear of the Jews, the doors were close shut,and gave them sufficient assurance, that he was risen from the dead. Thomas was riot present at this meeting, having probably never rejoined their company since their dispersion in the garden, when every one's fears prompted him to consult his own safety. At his return, they told him, that the Lord had appeared to them, but he obstinately refused to give credit to what they said, or to believe that it was really he, presuming it rather a spectre or apparition, unless he might see the very print of the nails, and feel the wounds in his hands and side: a strong piece of infidelity! Was it any thing more than what Moses and the prophets had long since foretold ? Had not our Lord frequently decl::red in plain terms, that he
must rise from the dead the third day? And could they question the possibility of what he told them, when they had so often seen him work the greatest miracles?
The stubbornness of Thomas, on this occasion, might have betrayed him into an eternal infidelity ; but our compassionate Saviour would not take the advantage of his perverse obstinacy; for, on that day sevennight he came again to them, as they were met at their solemn devotions, and, calling to Thomas, bade him. look upon his hands, put his fingers into the print of the nails, and thrust his hand into his side, to satisfy his faith by a demonstration from the senses. Thomas was soon convinced of his error and obstinacy, confessing that he now acknowledged him to be his Lord and Master, a God omnipotent, as he was thus able to rescue himself from the power of death. Our Lord answered, that it was happy for him that he believed the testimony of his own senses; but that it was a more noble and commendable act of faith, to acquiesce in a rational evidence, and to receive the doctrines and precepts of the gospel upon such testimonies and assurances as will satisfy a wise and sober man, though he did not himself behold them.
After the blessed JEsus had left this vale of misery, and bestowed eminent gifts and miraculous powers on the apostles, St. Thomas, as well as the rest, preached the gospel in several parts of Judea; and, after the dispersion of the Christian church in Jerusalem, repaired into Parthia, the province assigned him for his ministry. After which, as Sempronius and others inform us, hc preached the gospel to the Medes, Persians, Caramani. ans, Hyrcanis, Bactarians, and the neighbouring nations.
Departing from Persia he travelled into Ethiopia, preaching the glad tidings of the Gospel, healing the sick, and working other miracles, to prove he had his commission from on high. And after travelling through these countries he entered the Indian territories.
We are told by Nicephorus, that he was at first unwilling to enter these countries, fearing he should find their manners as rude and intractable as their faces were black and deformed, till encouraged by a vision wherein he was assured of the Divine Presence to assist him. He travelled a great way into the Eastern countries, and even visited the island Taprobane, since called Sumatra, and the country of the Brachmans, preaching every where with the greatest gentleness, and using the most persuasive discourses, not fying out into invectives against their idolatrous practices, but calmly instructing them in the doctrines of Christianity, persuading them by degrees to renounce their follies, well knowing that confirmed habits must be cured by patience and forbearance, by slow and gentle methods; and by these means he reclaimed the people from the grossest errors and superstitions, to an hearty belief and reception of Christianity.
The Portuguese, when they first visited these countries, after their discovery of a passage by the Cape of Good Hope, received the following particulars, partly from ancient monuments, and partly from constant and uncontroverted traditions preserved by the Christians in those parts ; namely, that St. Thomas came first to Socotora, an island in the Arabian sea, and thence to Cranganor, where, having converted many from the error of their ways, he travelled further into the East : and having successfully preached the gospel, returned back to the kingdom of Coromandel, where at Mallipur, the metropolis of the kingdom, not far from the mouth of the Ganges, he began to erect a place for divine worship, till prohibited by the idolatrous priests, as well as by Sagamo, prince of that country: but after performing several miracles, the work was suffered to proceed, and Sagamo himself embraced the Christian faith, whose example was soon followed by great numbers of his subjects and attendants.
The Brachmans were greatly alarmed at this remarkible success, as they plainly perceived that their reli
gion would soon be extirpated, unless some method could be found of putting a stop to the progress of Christianity: and therefore resolved to put the apostle to death. At a small distance from the city was a tomb, whither St. Thomas often retired for private devotions. Hither the Brachmans and their armed followers pursued him, and while he was intent at prayer, they first shot at him a shower of darts, after which, one of the priests ran him through with a lance. His body was taken up by his disciples, and buried in the church he had lately erected, and which was afterwards improved into a stately and magnificent fabric.
According to Chrysostom, St. Thomas, who at first was the weakest and most incredulous of all the apostles, became through CHRIST's condescension to satisfy his scruples, and the power of divine grace, the most active and invincible of them all; travelling over most parts of the world, and living without fear in the midst of barbarous nations, for the propagation of the Chriştian faith.
AN ACCOUNT OF ST. ANDREW,
The Apostle. ALTHOUGH the sacred historians have largely de scribed the transactions of Peter and Paul, yet we find they have been sparing in their accounts of the other apostles, giving us only now and then a few oblique strokes and accidental remarks concerning them. Why no more of their respective actions were recorded by the penmen of the Holy Scriptures, is to us unknown: perhaps Divine Providence thought it convenient that no further account should be given of the first planting of Christianity in the world, than what concerned Judea, and the neighbouring countries, at least the most eminent places in the Roman empire, that the truth of