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compiled with; and the great apostle St. Peter surrendered up his soul into the hands of his great and beneficent Master, who came down from heaven to ransom mankind from destruction, and open for them the gates of the heavenly Canaan.
His body, being taken down from the cross, is said to have been embalmed by Mercellinus, the presbyter, after the manner of the Jews, and then burned in the Vatican, near the Appian way, two miles from Rome.
Here it remained till the time of pope Cornelius, who re-conveyed it to Rome, where it rested in an obscure place, till the reliign of Constantine, who, from the great reverence he entertained for the christian religion, erected many churches at Rome, and rebuilt and greatly enlarged the Vatican in honour of St. Peter. He also considerably enriched the church with gifts and ornaments; and it has continued increasing in riches and splendor, every age, until it is become one of the wonders of the world.
If we consider St. Peter as a man, there seems tc have been a natural eagerness predominant in his temper, which animated his soul to the most bold, and sometimes rash undertakings. It was this, in a great measure, that prompted him to be so very forward to speak, and to return answers sometimes before he had well considered them. It was this that made him expose his person to the most imminent dangers, promise those great things in behalf of his Master, resolutely draw his sword in liisquarrel against a whole band of soldiers, and wound a servant of the high priest: nay, he had in all probability, attempted greater things, had not the Lord restrained his impetuosity, and given a seasonable check to his fury.
If we consider him as a disciple of the blessed Jesus, we shall find him exemplary in the great duties of religion. His humility and lowliness of mind were remark
able. With what a passionate earnestness on the conviction of a miracle, did he beg our blessed Saviour to depart from him; thinking it unworthy the Son of God to come near so vile a sinner.
When the great Redeemer of mankind, by that amazing condescension, stooped so low as to wash the feet of his disciples, Peter could not be persuaded to permit his performing it, thinking it highly improper that so great a person should submit to such a servile office towards a person so mean as himself; nor could he be induced to admit of it, till his great master threatened to deprive him of his favour.
When Cornelius, the Roman centurion, heightened in his opinion of him, by an immediate command from the Almighty concerning him, would have treated him with more than ordinary marks of esteem and veneration; he was so far from complying with it, that he declared he was nothing more than a mortal like himself. His love and zeal for his Master were remarkable; he thought he could never express either at too high a rate; venturing on the greatest perils, and exposing his life to the most imminent dangers. His forwardness to own his great Master for the Messiah and Son of the Most High, was remarkably great; and it was this that drew from his Lord that honourable encomium, Blessed art thou Simon Bar-jona. But his courage and constancy in confessing Christ, even before his most inveterate enemies, was still greater, after he had recovered himself from his fall. How plainly does he tell the Jews, that they were the murderers and crucifiers of the Lord of Glory? Nay, with what an undaunted courage, with what an heroic greatness of soul, did he tell the very Sanhedrim, who had sentenced and condemned him, that they were guilty of his death, and that they had no other way of escaping the vengeance of the Almighty, but by (he merits of that very Jesus, whom they had crucified and put to death.
lastly, it' wo consider him as an apostle, as a pastor, or a shepherd of the souls of men, we shall find him faithful and diligent in his office, zealously endeavouring to instruct the ignorant, reduce the erroneous, strengthen the weak, confirm the strong, reclaim the vicious, and turn the children of men into the paths of righteousness. He never omitted any opportunity of preaching to the people, and spreading the glad tidings of the gospel among the human race; and so powerful were hie discourses, that he converted multitudes at onetime. How many painful journies and dangerous voyages did he undertake! With what unconquerable patience did he endure the greatest trials, surmount every difficulty, and remove every apposition that he might pla«t the gospel of his beloved Master! Never refusing even to lay down his life to promote it. Nor was be only assiduous to perform these duties himself, but he was also careful to animate others to do the like; earnestly pressing and persuading the pastors and governors of the church toJeed the flock
of God, to labour freely for the good of ths souls of men, and not undertake those office to acquire advantages to themselves; beseeching them to treat the rlock committed to their care with lenity and gentleness, and to be themselves shining examplesof piety and religion, the surest method of rendering their ministry successful. And because it was impossible for him to be always present to teach and warn the children of men, he endeavoured by letters to imprint in their minds the practice of what they had been taught. A method, he tells us, he was resolved to pursue, as long as he continued an inhabitant of this world ; " thinking it meet, while he was in this tabernacle, to stir up, by putting them in mind of these things ; that so they might be able, after his decease, to have them always in remembrance.''
Thus lived, thus died Simon Peter, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, and at length to offer up his life in ratification of the doctrine he delivered, and the faith he maintained and propagated.
Account oj'this Apostle from his Birth, till his Conversion to the Christian Faith.
THIS great apostle of the Gentiles was a native of Tarsus, and a descendant from the antient stock of Abraham. He was born ahout two years before the blessed Jesus, and belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, the youngest son of Jacob, who thus prophesied of him ; " Benjamin shall ravin as a
wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey; and at night he shall divide the spoil :" a prophetical character which Tertulliau and others will have to be accomplished in our apostle. For, in his youth, or morning of his days, he persecuted the churches, destroyng the tlock of the Almighty; he devoured the prey : in his declining age, or evening of his days, he became a physician of the nations, feeding and distributing with the greatest care and assiduity the sh«ep of Christ; that great shepherd of IsraeI, he divideIh the spoil.
Tarsus, the place of this apostle's nativity, was the metropolis of Cilicia, and situated about three hundred miles distant from Jerusalem; it was exceedingly rich and populous, and a Roman minicipium, or free corporation, invested with the privileges of Rome by the two first emperors, as a reward for the citizens' firm adherence to the Caesars, in the rebellion of Crassus. St. Paul was therefore born a Roman citizen, and he often pleads this privilege on his trials.
It was common for the inhabitants of Tarsus to send their children into other cities, for learning and improvement: especially to Jerusalem, where they were so numerous, that they had a synagogue of their own, called the synagogue of the Cilicians. To this capital our apostle was also sent, and brought up at the school of that eminent rabbi Gamaliel, in the most exact knowledge of the law of Moses. Nor did he fail to profit by the instructions of that great master; for he so diligently conformed himself to its precepts, that, without boasting, he asserts of himself, that touching the righteousness of the law, he was blameless, and defied even his enemies to alledge any thing to the contrary, evenln his youth. He joined himself to the sect of the Pharisees, the most strict order of the Jewish religion; but at the same time, the proudest, and the greatest enemies to Christ and his holy religion.
With regard to his double capacity, of Jewish extraction and Roman freedom he had two names, Saul and Paul, the former Hebrew and the latter Latin. It was common for the descendants of Benjamin to give the name Saul to their children ever since the time of the first king of Israel, who was chosen out of that tribe; and Paul was a name as common among the Romans. We must also consider his trade of tent-making as a part of his education, it being a constant practice of the Jews to bring up their children to some honest calling, that in case
of necessity they might provide for themselves by the labour of their own hands.
Saul having obtained a thorough knowledge of the science cultivated by the Jews, and being naturally of a very hot and fiery temper, became a great champion of the law of Moses, and the tradition of the elders, which he considered as zeal for God. This rendered him impatient of all opposition to the doctrine and tenets he had imbibed, and a vehement blasphemer and persecutor of the christians, who were commonly reputed the enemies and destroyers of the Jewish (economy. We must not, however, consider our apostle as guilty of the pride and hypocrisy of the Pharisees; for he declares that he had ever been careful to act in conformity to the dictates of his conscience, by which he thought himself bound to do "many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth." It was, therefore, the prejudices of his education, and the natural warmth of his temper, that excited him to those violent persecutions of the christians, for which he became so famous.
The first action we find him engaged in, was the disputation he and his countrymen had with the martyr Stephen, with regard to the Messiah. The christian was too hard for them in the dispute; but they were too powerful for him in their civil interests; for being enraged at his convincing arguments, they carried him before the high priest, who by false accusations condemned him to death. How far Saul was concerned in this cruel action, is impossible to say; all we know is, that he kept the raiment of them that slew him.
The storm of persecution against the church being thus begun, it increased prodigiously, and the poor christians of Jerusalem were miserably harrassedaud dispersed. In this persecution our apostle was a principal agent, searching all the adjacent parts for the afflicted saints, beating some in the synagogue, inflicting other cruelties, con