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Sermons for the Christian Seasons.
THE WRITTEN WORD.
St. John xx. 31. But these are written, that ye might
believe that Jesus-is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His Name.
TO-DAY is the festival of St. Mark the Evangelist. The word Evangelist was not at the first used in the same sense in which we now use it, but meant a preacher of the Gospel: thus it is used by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians, which has been read this day, “And He gave some ‘Apostles;' and some ‘Prophets ;' and some 'Evangelists ;' and some 'pastors and teachers;”” and in this sense Philip the deacon is called an Evangelist in Acts xxi. “. ... we entered into the house of Philip the Evangelist, which was one of the seven ;” and Timothy also by St. Paul, in his second Epistle, “ But' watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of
an Evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” This then was the old use of the word Evangelist; it meant a preacher of the Gospel : and in this sense both Philip the deacon, and Timothy bishop of Ephesus, were Evangelists. Now we use the word Evangelist, no longer for a preacher of the Gospel, but for the writer of a Gospel : and, as there are only four written Gospels, there are, in this sense of the word, but four Evangelists : of whom two, St. Matthew and St. John, were also Apostles : two, St. Mark and St. Luke, not themselves Apostles, but followers of Apostles : St. Mark a follower of St. Peter, and St. Luke a follower of St. Paul. The word Evangelist then meant at the first a preacher, and is now used to mean a writer of the Gospel : the word from which it is formed, meaning, in Greek, the same as the word Gospel means in old English, “a good word,” or “good tidings.” Thus the word Evangelist was used at the first, of all who preached this “good word,” or “good tidings," of God: and is now used of the four by whom, or rather by God's Spirit in whom, we have received the same “good word,” or “good tidings,” of God, written. And it is thus that the whole Church of Jesus Christ, from the very first, hath in all ages received the four written
Gospels as the work, not of man, but of God the Holy Ghost : as a very chief part of the holy Scriptures which God hath, by His Spirit, given to the Church, “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. As such, the holy Gospels were from very early times, as now, read in the Churches as the Word of God: as such, the holy bishops out of them both taught the faithful, and convinced the gainsayer ; ever referring to them as to a last and final witness for the truth of God, even to God Himself speaking by His Spirit: as such, when they numbered up the sacred Books, the Four Gospels ever had a chief place : as such, when the Church spread far and wide, among men of various tongues, the Four Gospels were ever among the very first books rendered into their mother tongue. And many were the Christians, who, in those early days of persecution, met a cruel death with patience and hope, rather than give up to be burnt the volumes of the holy Gospels.
I will now proceed to put together what we learn from holy Scripture and from early Christian writers of the life and death of St. Mark. It has been thought that St. Mark the Evangelist is the same as John Mark, sister's son to Barnabas, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, but there are many weighty reasons against this view—and chiefly this, that, whereas all early writers connect St. Mark the Evangelist with St. Peter, both holy Scripture and early writers connect John Mark with St. Paul : and this, it would seem, at one and the same time. Yet there is one place in holy Scripture in which there can be little doubt that St. Mark is spoken of by name, 1 St. Pet. v. 13. “The Church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you, and so doth Marcus my son.' St. Peter herein calling Marcus, or St. Mark, his son, in the same sense in which St. Paul calls Timothy “his own son in the faith ;" which agrees with what a very early writer, St. Irenæus, says of St. Mark, that he was the companion and interpreter of St. Peter.
It is thought that St. Mark was by birth a Jew; as is probable also from the Hebrew phrases which learned men have observed in his Gospel. It is not clear at what time he was converted; one early Christian writer says, that he was one of the seventy disciples whom Christ “sent before His face :” and that he left Christ, on account of those words of His, "Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man
and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you ;' but that he was afterwards recalled by St. Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, and so wrote his Gospel. Another affirms, that he had neither
. leard nor followed Christ, but was converted by the Apostles after the resurrection—which may only mean, that he had not so heard and followed Christ, as the Apostles had heard and followed Him throughout, and thus that His Gospel was not written from what he had himself heard and seen of Christ, but from what he had heard from St. Peter, who had himself heard and followed Christ throughout—and the statement that he was converted by the Apostles after the Resurrection, is in no way contrary to the former, that he had fallen away from Christ, and was recalled by St. Peter.
The occasion, on which St. Mark's Gospel was written, is thus given by the early Christian historian Eusebius, and is by him taken from yet earlier authors. That when Peter, in the reign of Claudius, came to Rome, and had defeated Simon Magus, “ The people were so inflamed with love for the Christian truths, as not to be satisfied with the hearing of them, unless they also had them written down ; that, accordingly, they with earnest entreaties applied themselves