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maiden of Galilee, of exemplary piety and modesty. She does not appear to have been lifted up by the message of Gabriel; but, retiring as much as possible from the world, expected, with humble solicitude, the fulfilment of the divine prediction. She watched, no doubt, over the infant Jesus with the most tender and unremitting care, delighting to observe his progress in wisdom and in stature, and cherishing the belief that he would one day effect the deliverance of Israel. Her affectionate expostulation with him when he remained among the doctors at Jerusalem affords a remarkable instance of her maternal care. From the silence of the evangelists concerning Joseph, it is probable that Mary became a widow before the commencement of our Lord's ministry. At his death, he commended her to John, on whose affectionate disposition he had the most implicit reliance. Neither her own danger, nor the sadness of the spectacle, nor the reproaches and insults of the people, could restrain her from witnessing the sufferings of her son upon the cross. In this, she exhibited, as Grotius justly observes, a noble example of fortitude and zeal. Now a sword, according to Simeon's prophecy, [Luke ii. 35.] struck through her tender heart, and penetrated her soul; and, probably, the extremity of her sorrow did so overwhelm her spirits, as to render her incapable of attending at the sepulchre. Nothing more concerning her is mentioned in the sacred story, or in early antiquity, except that she continued among the disciples, and united in their worship after our Lord's ascension. [Acts i. 14.] Andrew of Crete, a writer of the seventh century, tells us that she died with John at Ephesus, in an extreme old age; and it appears, from a letter of the council of Ephesus in the fifth century, that it was then believed she was buried there. But they pretend to shew her sepulchre at Jerusalem; and many ridiculous tales are forged concerning her death and assumption, or being taken up into heaven, of which the best Catholic authors are themselves ashamed.
Simon Peter was a native of Bethsaida, a town situated on the western shore of the lake of Gennezareth. He was by trade a fisherman, and had a brother named Andrew; but whether he was elder or younger than Simon is not known. Their father was named Jonah, or John; and, probably, was of the same occupation with his sons. Andrew was a disciple of John Baptist, [John i. 35, 41.] and heard him point out Jesus as the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This good news Andrew communicated to his brother Simon, and brought him to Jesus, who, foreseeing the fortitude he would exercise in preaching the gospel, honoured him with the name of Cephas, or Peter, which is, by interpretation, a stone, or rock. [Joha i. 42.]
Andrew and Peter now become the disciples of Jesus, and often attended him. Yet they still followed their trade of fishing occasionally, till he called them to a more constant attendance, promising to make them fishers of men. [Mat. iv. 19.] Afterwards when he chose twelve of his disciples to be with him always, and to be his apostles, Peter and Andrew were of the number. About that time, Peter had left Bethsaida, and had gone to Capernaum with his wife, who is thought to have been of that town. From Andrew's accompanying his brother thither, and living with him in the same house, it may be conjectured that their father was dead. With them, Jesus also abode, after he took up his ordinary residence in Capernaum; for he seems to have been pleased with the disposition and manners of all the members of the family. This house is sometimes called Peter's house. [Mat. viii. 14.] and sometimes the house of Simon and Andrew. [Mark i. 29.] Thus, as Lardner observes, it appears, that before Peter became an apostle, he had a wife, was the head of a family, had a boat and nets, and a furnished house, and maintained himself by an honest occupation. To these things Peter alluded when he told his Master, Behold, we have left all and foliowed thee; what shall we have therefore? [Mat. xix. 27.] The apostle Paul seems to insinuate
that Peter's wife attended him in his travels after our Lord's ascension. [1 Cor. ix. 5.]
Peter, now made an apostle, shewed on every occasion the strongest faith in Jesus as the Messiah, and the most extraordinary zeal in his service, of which the following are examples. The night after the miracle of the loaves, when Jesus came to his disciples walking on the sea, they were affrighted, supposing that they saw a spirit. But Peter, taking courage, said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come to thee on the water. And he said to him, come. [Mat. xiv. 23.] The next day, when many of our Lord's disciples, offended at his discourse in the synagogue of Capernaum, left him, Jesus said to the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom should we go? for thou hast the words of eternal life and we know and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. In returning this answer, Peter was more forward than the rest, because his faith was strengthened by the late miracle of his walking on the water. The same answer Peter gave when Jesus in private asked his disciples, first, what opinion the people entertained of him; next, what was their own opinion. [Mat. xvi. 16.] Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. Having received this answer, Jesus declared Peter blessed on account of his faith; and, in allusion to the signification of his name, added, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and 1 will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt hind on earth, &c. Many think these things were spoken to Peter alone, for the purpose of conferring on him privileges and powers not granted to the rest of the apostles. But others, with more reason, suppose, that though Jesus directed his discourse to Peter, it was intended for them all, and that the honours and powers granted to Peter by name were conferred on them all equally. For no one will say that Christ's church was built upon Peter singly. It was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. As little can any one say that the power of binding and loosing was confined to Peter, seeing it was declared afterwards to belong to all the apostles. [Mat. xviii, 18, John xx. 23.] To these things add this, that as Peter made both his confessions in answer to questions which Jesus put to the whole of the apostles, these confessions were certainly made in the name of the whole, And therefore what Jesus said to him in reply was designed for the whole without distinction ; excepting this, which was peculiar to him,, that he was to be the first who, after the descent of the Holy Ghost, should preach the gospel to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles; an honour which was conferred on Peter in the expression, I will give unto thee the keys, &c.
Peter was one of the three apostles whom Jesus admitted to witness the resurrection of Jairus' daughter, and before whom he was transfigured, and with whom he retired to pray in the garden the night before he suffered. He was the person who, in the fervour of his zeal for his Master, cut off the car of the high-priest's slave, when the armed band came to apprehend him. Yet this same Peter, a few hours after that, denied his Master three different times in the high-priest's palace, and with oaths. After the third denial, being stung with deep remorse, he went out and wept bitterly. This offence Jesus pardoned. And, to testify his acceptance of his lapsed but penitent apostle, he ordered the women to carry the news of his resurrection to Peter by name, and appeared to him before he shewed himself to any other of his apostles. And at another appearance, he confirmed him in the apostolical office, by giving him a special commission to feed his sheep. From that time forth Peter never faultered in his faith; but uniformly shewed the greatest zeal and courage in his Master's cause.
Soon after our Lord's ascension, in a numerous assembly of the apostles and brethren,
Peter gave it as his opinion that one should be chosen to be an apostle in the room of Judas. To this they all agreed; and, by lot, chose Matthias, whom, on that occasion, they numbered with the eleven apostles. On the day of Pentecost following, when the Holy Ghost fell on the apostles and disciples, Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice in the name of the apostles, as he had done on various occasions in his Master's life-time, and gave the multitude an account of that great miracle. [Acts ii. 14.] When Peter and John were brought before the council to be examined concerning the miracle wrought on the impotent man, Peter spake. It was Peter who questioned Ananias and Sapphira about the price of their land; and, for their lying in that manner, punished them miraculously with death. It is remarkable also, that although by the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were wrought, it was by Peter's shadow alone that the sick, who were laid in the streets of Jerusalem, were healed as he passed by. Lastly, it was Peter who made answer to the council for the apostles' not obeying their command to preach no more in the name of
Peter's fame was now become so great, that the brethren at Joppa, hearing of his being in Lydda, and of his having cured Eneas miraculously of a palsy, sent, desiring him to come and restore a disciple to life, named Tabitha; which he did. During his abode at Joppa, the Roman centurion, Cornelius, directed by an angel, sent for him to come and preach to him. On that occasion, the Holy Ghost fell on Cornelius and his company while Peter spake. Peter, by his zeal and success in preaching the gospel, having attracted the notice of the inhabitants at Jerusalem, Herod Agrippa, who, to please the Jews, had killed James, the brother of John, still farther to gratify them, cast Peter into prison. But an angel brought him out; after which, he concealed himself in the city, or in some neighbouring town, till Herod's death, which happened about the end of the year. Some learned men think Peter at that time went to Antioch, or to Rome. But if he had gone to any celebrated city, Luke, as L'Enfant observes, would probably have mentioned it. Besides, we find him in the council of Jerusalem, which met not long after this to determine the famous question concerning the circumcision of the Gentiles. The council being ended, Peter went to Antioch, where he gave great offence by refusing to eat with the converted Gentiles. But Paul withstood him to the face, rebuking him before the whole church for his pusillanimity and hypocrisy. [Gal. ii. 11..21.]
From the foregoing history, it appears that Peter very early distinguished himself as an apostle; that his Master greatly esteemed him for his courage, his zeal, and his other good qualities: that he lived in peculiar habits of intimacy with Peter, and conferred on him various marks of favour, in common with James and John, who likewise distinguished themselves by their talents and good dispositions. But that Peter received from Christ any authority over his brethren, or possessed any superior dignity as an apostle, there is no reason for believing. All the apostles were equal in office and authority, as is plain from our Lord's declaration, one is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren. The only distinction among the apostles was, that which arose from personal talents and qualifications, a distinction which never fails to take place in every society. Because, if one distinguishes himself by his superior ability in the management of affairs, he will be respected in proportion to the idea. which his fellows entertain of him. In this manner, and in no other, Peter, whose virtues and talents were singularly conspicuous, acquired a pre-eminence among the apostles. But it was only of the sort founded on personal esteem. And therefore, in their meetings to deliberate on any important affair,. the brethren may have wished to hear him speak first; and he commonly did so but that was all. In like manner;
in their intercourses with their adversaries, Peter often spake in the name of such of the apostles and brethren as were present; which they willingly allowed, perhaps desired, as thinking him best qualified for the office. The evangelists also, who wrote their gospels à considerable time after Peter had raised himself in the esteem of the apostles and brethren, added their suffrage to his character, by mentioning him first in the catalogues they gave of the apostles. And as two of them were themselves apostles, by acknowledging, in that manner, their respect for him, they have shewn themselves entirely free from envy. Lastly, it appears from Peter's epistles, that he did not think himself superior in authority to the other apostles. For if he had entertained any imagination of that sort, insinuations of his superiority, if not direct assertions thereof, might have been expected in his epistles, and especially in their inscriptions. Yet there is nothing of that sort in either of his letters. The highest title he takes to himself in writing to the elders of Pontus, is that of their fellow-elder. [1 Pet. v. 1.]
To the foregoing account of Peter's rank among the apostles, Dr. Macknight adds from Lardner on the canon, page 102, that Cassian, supposing Peter to be older than Andrew, makes his age the ground of his precedence among the apostles; and that Jerome himself says, "The keys were given to all the apostles alike, and the church was built on them all equally. But for preventing dissension, precedence was given And John might have been the person; but he was too young. And Peter was preferred on account of his age."
In the history of the Acts, no mention is made of Peter after the council of Jerusalem. But from Gal ii. 11, it appears, that, after the council, he was with Paul at Antioch He is likewise mentioned by Paul, 1 Cor. i. 12, iii. 22, from which Pearson infers that Peter had been in Corinth, before the first epistle to the Corinthians was written. But this does not follow. In these passages Paul speaks of certain Jews in Corinth who had been converted by Jesus and Peter. But he does not say they were converted in Corinth. Probably their conversion happened in Judea. If Peter had preached in Corinth before Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he would not have said, I have planted, Apollos hath watered; overlooking the labours of Peter. When Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans, it may be presumed that Peter was not in Rome: for, in that epistle, Paul saluted many of the brethren there by name, without mentioning Peter. Farther, during his two years' confinement at Rome, Paul wrote four letters to different churches, in none of which is Peter mentioned. Neither is any thing said or hinted in these epistles, from which it can be gathered that Peter had ever been in Rome. Probably, he did not visit that city till about the time of Paul's martyrdom.
It is generally supposed, that after Peter was at Antioch with Paul, he returned to Jerusalem. What happened to him after that is not told in the scriptures. But Eusebius informs us, that Origen, in the third volume of his exposition on Genesis, wrote to this purpose: "Peter is supposed to have preached to the Jews of the dise persion in Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia. And, at length, coming to Rome, was crucified with his head downwards, himself desiring that it might be in that manner." Some learned men think that Peter, in the latter part of his life, went into Chaldea, and there wrote his first epistle, because the salutation of the church at Babylon is sent in it. But their opinion is not supported by the testimony of antient writers. Lardner, Can. vol. iii. p. 169, saith, It seems to me, that when he [Peter] left Judea, he went again to Antioch, the chief city of Syria. Thence he might go into other parts of the continent, particularly Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, which are expressly mentioned at the beginning of his first epistle.
In those countries he might stay a good while. It is very likely that he did so ; and that he was well acquainted with the Christians there, to whom he afterwards wrote two epistles. When he left those parts, I think he went to Rome; but not till after Paul had been in that city, and was gone from it."
The authenticity of his first epistle was never called in question. It has been supposed, that as Peter was the apostle of the circumcision, it was intended only for the Jewish Christians who were scattered abroad throughout various provinces of Asia Minor, which the apostle enumerates in the first chapter and verse. There is, however, reason to suppose, from some passages which seem more particularly to refer to the abominations of the Gentiles, that it was written also for the instruction of Gentile converts, and that both Jews and Gentiles are comprehended under the general name of strangers, because all the true followers of Christ are pilgrims and strangers in this present world. From Peter's sending the salutation of the church at Babylon to the Christians in Pontus, it is generally believed that he wrote his first epistle in Babylon. But as there was a Babylon in Egypt, and a Babylon in Assyria, and a city to which the name of Babylon is given figuratively, [Rev. xvii. xviii.] namely, Rome, the learned are not agreed which is the Babylon there meant. It is very remarkable that the Roman Catholic writers universally claim that honour for the seat of their mother church. It is believed to have been written in the year sixty-six or sixty-seven, a little after the death of Paul.
It is evidently the design of the first epistle of Peter, "to induce the Christian converts in many parts of the world to maintain a conversation, not merely inoffensive to all men, but in all respects worthy of the gospel, and to support them under the severe persecutions and fiery trials they already endured, or were likely to endure by the noblest considerations which their religion could suggest.".
The first branch of this design the apostle seems to keep particularly in view, from chap. i..iii. 7. And, in pursuance of it, after having congratulated his brethren who were dispersed abroad through various countries, on their happiness in being called to the glorious privileges of the gospel, which was introduced into the world in so sublime a manner by the prophets and apostles, [chap. i. 1..12.] he exhorts them to watchfulness, to sobriety, to love, and to universal obedience, by an affectionate representation of their relation to God, their redemption by Christ's invaluable blood, and the excellence and perpetuity of the Christian dispensation, and of its glorious fruits and consequences, compared with the vanity of all worldly enjoyments. [verse 13 to the end.] Ürging them, by the like considerations, to receive the word of God with meekness, to continue in the exercise of faith in Christ as the great foundation of their eternal hopes, and to maintain such a behaviour as would adorn his gospel among the unconverted Gentiles. [chap. ii. 1..12.] For the same end, he exhorts them to the exercise of a due care as to relative duties, and particularly a subjection to civil governors and to masters, even when their dispositions and injunctions might be hard and severe; enforcing all by the consideration of that patience with which our Lord Jesus Christ endured his most grievous sufferings. [verse 13 to the end.] He likewise exhorts Christian wives to submit themselves to their husbands, and to study the ornament of their minds rather than of their persons; and husbands to treat their wives in a becoming and honourable manner, from a tender sense of those infirmities to which the sex is peculiarly liable. [chap. iii. 1..7.]
In the ensuing part of the epistle, the apostle's arguments and exhortations more immediately and directly refer to those dreadful sufferings and persecutions to which the Christian converts were exposed, or which they actually endured from the male