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Biography of the Saviour and his apostles : with a portrait of each online

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3 3433 07955994 8
















No. 42 Nassau Stojkbt.







Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1834, by H. L.
Barndm, in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the Southern
District of New York.


The moral growth of man furnishes fruitful
topics for interesting and instructive contempla-
tion. Hence the study of Biography is attended
with many peculiar advantages. It not only in-
spires us with an admiration and love of those
virtues which come within the reach of imitation,
but it also awakens us from the lethargy of indo-
lence, and leads to the labor of virtue.

In the lives of the individuals here alluded to,
we may trace, in well defined characters, the ope-
rations of all those desires, appetites, and passions,
which mark the character of man. There virtue
shines in her native lustre, and vice presents her
awful picture of deformity.

In the character of the Saviour is reflected the
most lovely image of moral perfection. His divine
lessons touch the heart, by the affecting combina-
tion of practice with theory. But in the lives of
his Apostles, we have lamentable specimens of
human degeneracy. Though they were eminent
for piety, still, the seeds of vice and discord often
sprang up, and obscured their virtues.

We aim at nothinc more in this work, than to


portray the general features in these characters,
and to describe, as briefly as possible, the most
important events attending the lives of the persons
to whom they relate.

The quotations attached to the several sketches,
will enable the reader to obtain, in Scripture lan-
guage, a more perfect knowledge of these subjects,
than we can impart.

The portraits given are true copies of the heads
in Raphael's celebrated painting of " The Lord's
Supper," and are, perhaps, as correct likenesses
of those individuals, as the combined efforts of the
best historians and the most skilful artists can form.
That which gives them additional interest in this
place, is the fact, that they were all engraved by-
machinery, which is propelled by weight. There-
fore, it may be said that they were engraved with-
out manual labor; that is, without any aid from
the artist, except to put the machine in motion.
We consider this operation one of the greatest im-
provements of the age ; and to give a fair, but not
flattered specimen of the work, we here present to
the public the first engravings that were executed
by that machine ; and to show the perfection of its
execution, send them forth just as they came from ii.





" There lives at this time in Jadea, a man of singular
character whose name is Jesus Christ. The barbarians
esteem him a prophet, but his followers adore him as the
immediate offspring of the immortal God. He is en-
dowed with such unparalleled virtue, as to call back the
dead from their graves, and to heal every kind of disease
with a word or touch. His person is tall and elegantly-
shaped ; his aspect amiable and reverend ; his hair flows
into those beauteous shades which no united colours can
match, falling into graceful curls below his ears, agreea-
bly couching on his shoulders, and parting on the crown
of his head, like the head dress of the sect of Nazarites.
His forehead is smooth and large, his cheeks without a
spot save that of a lovely red, his nose and mouth are
formed with exquisite symmetry, his beard is thick and
suitable to the hair of the head, reaching a little below
the chin, and parting in the middle like a fork; his e.yes
are bright, clear, and serene. He rebukes with majesty,
counsels with mildness, and invites with the most tender
and persuasive language; his whole address, whether
word or deed, being elegant, grave, and strictly charac-
teristic of so exalted a being. No man has seen him
laugh, but the whole world beholds him weep frequently;

6 DEScniPTiON OF christ's person.

and so persuasive are his tears, that the whole multitude
cannot withhold their tears from joining in sympathy
with him. He is very modest, temperate, and wise ; in
short, whatever this phenomenon may turn out in the end^
he seems at present a man of excellent beauty and divine
perfections, every way surpassing the children of men."

This letter has had an extensive circulation through
the country, but of its history or authenticity we know
nothing more than this, that it was found in Rome, and
was published a few years since with the caption here
affixed to it.

Though it might be gratifying to learn more about the
personal appearance of the Saviour, than the Holy
Scriptures impart, still it is of too little consequence to
us, to detract our attention from the study of his charac-
ter. The time will come when he will appear to all
nations in the illustrious character, " the prince op
^EAGE," and the humble form of man will be lost in the
dignity and glory of his exalted station.



We feel a reverential awe, and humble dependance,
when we contemplate the character of the Saviour.
Such divine splendor and glory are cast around it, and
so profound are the mysteries with which it is connected,
that instead of attempting to delineate it, we feel disposed
to stand at a distance in silent and devout admiration.

But to form a proper connection, and uniformity in
the work before us, we must preface this, as well as the
other biographical sketches, with a view of the character
of the personage to whom it refers. We therefore un-
dertake it with earnest supplication to the "Source of
all light and truth," that we may receive " the truth as
it is in Jesus," and that we may not " darken counsel by
words without knowledge."

The character of the Saviour, as represented in the
plain and energetic narratives of the Evangelists, is mark-
ed by qualities the most extraordinary, and the most
transcendent. Every description of any other personage,
whether embellished by the fancy of the poet, or portrayed
by the accuracy of the historian, leaves it evidently with-
out an equal in the annals of mankind.

The manner in which this most sublime of all cha-
racters is introduced to us, claims our first attention.
We are not left to form an idea of it from vague ac-
counts or loose panegyric, but from actions and events.


The qualities of his mind are displayed by a detail of
actions, the more striking as they are more exact. All
his actions are left to recommend themselves by their
own intrinsic merits, to captivate by their unefFaced
beauty, and to shine by their native lustre. The Evan-
gelists have no where professedly drawn an elaborate or
highly finished character of the Saviour. We are not
told in a vague and indefinite manner, that he was emi-
nently bountiful, compassionate, or wise. It is no where
expressed in terms of general assertion, that he possessed
the greatest virtues that can adorn and dignify the nature
of man; or that he was endowed with a power to con-
trol or to counteract the general laws of nature. But
these inferences we are fully enabled to draw from regu-
lar statements of facts.

Ignorant and illiterate as the Evangelists were, they
have drawn a character superior to any that is elsewhere
to be met with in the history of mankind. This charac-
ter, they were no less unable than unwilling to invent:
the only method of solving this difficulty is to acknow-
ledge that they wrote from the immediate impressions of
reality. They saw, they conversed with the Saviour of
mankind, and heard from his sacred lips the words of
eternal life. They felt the power of truth upon their
minds, and they exhibited it with proportionable clear-
ness and strength. To state well known facts, and record
the lessons of divine revelation, were the great objects of
their labors. Hence they were consistent, as well as
circumstantial and accurate; and their uniformity of
representation, is an additional proof of the reality of the
person described as their divine Master. Every particu-
lar is introduced in an artless and undesigning manner;
and this circumstance itself, of not bringing our Lord



forward in an ostentatious point of view, affords a re-
markable evidence to confirm the truth of the Gospels.

To complete the perfection of his character, the Sa-
viour's conduct was the exact counterpart of his instruc-
tions. He presented to the world that lively image of
moral perfection, which had indeed filled and elevated
the imagination of Plato and Cicero ; but which they, as
well as all other ancient philosophers, in the widest circle
of their observation, had sought for in vain. The hea-
venly Teacher not only spoke as never man spake, with
respect to the sublime lessons which he taught, the lively
images by which he illustrated, and the awful and im-
pressive manner in which he inculcated them ; but at
once to combine the efficacy of example with the perfec-
tion of precept, became the imerring guide to all that was
pious, all that was good, and all that was truly and in-
trinsically great.

So pure and so perfect was the whole tenor of his coa-
duct, as to defy calumny, although it excited jealousy,
and inflamed malice. His most bitter and inveterate
enemies, even when suborned to be his public accusers,
could not make good a single charge against his moral
character. He was equally free from the ambition of an
impostor, and the infatuation of an enthusiast ; for, when
the people sought to place the crown of Israel on his head,
he conveyed himself away by a miracle. Whenever he
condescended to discourse upon any important point, or
to answer any objections of his adversaries, he overcame
their opposition with the irresistible power of truth, and
his words were the words of unerring wisdom. Upon
all occasions he displayed the soundness and moderation
of calm judgment, and the steadiness of heroic intrepidity.
There was no wild enthusiasm in his devotions, no rigid


austerity in his conduct, no frivolous subtlety or intem-
perate vehemence in his arguments. Of all the virtues
that adorned his mind, and gave a resistless grace and
loveliness to every action of his life, humility, patience,
and the most ardent and universal love of mankind,
were upon every occasion predominant. The perfect
benevolence of his character, indeed, is fully evinced by
the tendency of his miracles, which, far from being pre-
judicial and vindictive, were directed to some beneficial
end. His courage was equally remote from ostentation
and from rashness, and his meekness and condescension
never made him appear abject. Tried by the greatest
afflictions of life, assailed by hunger, exposed to poverty,
deserted by his friends, and condemned to suffer an igno-
minious death, he is never degraded ; the greatness of
his character is in no respect diminished — he preserves
the same air of mildness and dignity, and appears in the
same highly venerable light as the Saviour of the world,
who submits to an ignoble station, and conceals his ma-
jesty in an humble garb, for the most important purposes.
It is thus that the glorious prospects of nature are some-
times enveloped in the mists of the morning ; or the great
luminary of day is deprived of his beams and his bright-
ness, by the temporary darkness of an eclipse. Preserv-
ing the same character of dignity, blended with mildness
and affability, Jesus accommodated himself to persons of
every rank and condition. Among the wise and the
learned, the doctors of the Sanhedrim, the haughty Pha-
risees, and the sceptical Sadducees, how does he shine in
detecting their malice, confuting their cavils against his
conduct and precepts, and establishing clear and useful
truths. Among the publicans' and sinners, how does he
disseminate the purest morality without unnecessary


harshness ! Among the low and illiterate, the lishermen
of Galilee, and the populace of Jerusalem, how does he
condescend to their contracted understandings, and adapt
his precepts to their habits of life. Even women and
children, because considered as capable of that instruction
which leads to eternal happiness, are particularly regard-
ed by the universal Teacher of mankind. " Daughters
of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but for yourselves and
your children," was his benign address, when he wished
to turn their attention from his own sufferings to the im-
pending woes of their country. " Suffer little child ten
to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven,"
were his instructive words on another occasion. In this
various accommodation to high and low, old and young,
can we be inattentive to a quality of our Saviour's mind,
which is peculiarly calculated to attach every feeling
heart to his service ; do we not remark, that he was as
amiable, as he was great and wise 1

He who reflects with due attention and reverence upon
the dignity, purity, and holiness, of this divine character,
'will be sensible of the difficulty of doing justice to the
subject, as the Saviour of the world is presented to our
observation in a manner so peculiarly striking. The in-
spired apostles and evangelists can alone satisfy our in-
quiries concerning him ; and every other writer, conscious
of his own incapacity to conceive, and his want of elo-
quence to describe such unparalleled excellence, must
point to the lively and expressive portrait, which they
alone who saw the original, were qualified to draw.

It is rcEisonable to expect that so extraordinary a per-
sonage, distinguished as he was by every moral and in-
tellectual quality, must necessarily make his testimony
concerning himself perfectly credible. The positive and


direct proofs of his divine mission are equally founded
upon the prophecies which foretold the most remarkable
circumstances of his birth, life, and death, and upon the
miracles by which he proved to demonstration that he
was the promised Messiah of the Jews, the mediator of
a new covenant between God and man, and a divine
teacher sent to reform and save a guilty world.




The Sariour was born at Bethlehem, in the year of
the world 4000. On the eighth day, he was circumcised
in conformity with the law, and called Jesus, (Saviour,)
in compliance with the divine injunction laid upon his
mother before his birth. The circumstances attending
the visit of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, and the object
of their journey thither, are too well known to require any
further explanation. As they were preparing to return to
Nazareth, they were warned by a divine messenger to fly
with their infant son into Egypt, to avoid the cruelty of
Herod, whose jealousy was roused by the news of the
birth of " the King of the Jews," and who had ordered
all the male children about Bethlehem, under two years
of age, to be slain. This cruel tyrant, however, soon
afterwards died, and Joseph was admonished to return
into Judea.

The holy family retired to Nazareth, and there Jesus
abode, subject to his earthly parents, till he was thirty
years old, when he was baptized by John in the river
Jordan, and publicly declared by a voice from heaven to
be the Son of God, and the teacher of the world. After
having been subjected to the assaults of Satan in the wil-
derness forty days, Jesus entered upon his public minis-
try of teaching the people, making disciples, and work-
ing miracles, during which he traversed the land nearly


from one extremity to the other, visiting also the Samari-
tans, and the Gentiles in the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.

For an account of his travels, acts, &c. see the passages
quoted in connection with this article. We cannot here
comment upon them all, or even allude to them, other-
wise than by those quotations, but we shall make a few
remarks on the closing scenes of his life.

The lime having arrived, when " the Lord of life and
glory" was to expiate the sins of a guilty world upon
the cross, he retired to a sequestered spot to prepare for
the approaching sufferings, of which he had a full view.
Read Matt. xxvi. 31-56. Mark xiv. 27-52. Luke xxii.
39-53. John xviii. 1-12.

In these passages we have a vivid description of the
most stupendous and distressing sight ever exhibited;
the highest greatness in the lowest abasement — perfect
innocence overwhelmed with extreme suifering — the
most transcendent excellence treated with general con-
tempt and abhorrence.

Christian, behold your Lord and Master, the compas-
sionate Saviour, bowed down to the ground, under his
accumulated trials, his "soul exceeding sorrowful untq
death," his body sweating "as it were great drops of
blood," prostrate upon the cold ground, without an earthly
friend to support his drooping head ! Amazing sight !
Heart rending scene ! It is Jesus ! the Son of God, and
the Saviour of men, whose whole life was spent in works
of mercy ! O holy Jesus, who didst stoop so low, and
endure so much, give us a true sense of what our sins
required, and what a debt of gratiiude we owe to thee.
Communicate to us the inestimable benefits which thou
hast procured " by thine agony and bloody sweat, by thy
cross and passion."


We behold an inexpressible majesty and meekness in
the Saviour's deportment on this trying occasion. The
splendor of his divinity broke forth, even in this low-
state of abasement. His power and grace were both
wonderfully exhibited ; and in the union of the two, the
security of our salvation consists.

The Redeemer was alone, and deserted by all his
adherents, even those who had seemed most affectionate
and faithful, and who had vowed that they would die
with him. Yet he expressed no resentment, nor did he in
any measure depart from his purpose. While manifest-
ing his unparalleled forgiveness and forbearance, he went
through his work "in the greatness of his strength,"
actuated by an ardent desire to accomplish the will of
God, and make reconciliation for his people, whatever he
might endure.

Jesus permitted his enemies to take him, and to impose
upon his person the most cruel indignities. He bore
them with astonishing patience, and sought no redress ;
but only desired those nefarious persecutors to say
whether he deserved such treatment. Pains were taken
to furnish, if possible, the least shadow of a charge on
which his condemnation might be grounded. Rewards
were offered to any who v/ould perjure themselves, and
give such testimony as might afford his judges a plausi-
ble pretext for putting him to death ; a measure on which
they had determined. But persons of that description
could not readily be found.

So strong a restraint does God impose upon the minds
even of the dissolute and abandoned, that they are afraid
to affirm what their inclination would dictate.

At length two witnesses arose, who gave some inco-
herent accounts and gross misrepresentations, of what


Jesus had said about three years before, concerning the
destruction and rebuilding of the temple, (John ii. 19.)
Weak and absurd as the charge was, his enemies en-
deavoured to make it of sufficient consequence to permit
them by their laws to convict him. On this grouud they
determined to try their prisoner, and accordingly, at the
approach of day, they removed him to the guard cham-
ber of the Sanhedrim, where they sat in full council, and
put him upon his defence. " He at first opened not his
mouth," to answer their unjust and insulting inquiries;
but when put upon oath, and required by the most solemn
adjuration to declare whether he was, indeed, the pro-
mised Messiah, to answer the law, he replied in the most
explicit terms, that he was ; and maintained that, notwith-
standing his mean appearance at that time, and their
contempt of him, they should one day behold him in a
state of the highest exaltation and glory, descending from
heaven with divine majesty, as the Supreme and Univer-
sal Judge. His bold and open avowal of his character,
still more incensed them. They then considered him as
guilty of the most shocking impiety in claiming so high
a dignity, and agreed that for this, he ought to sufier
death as a blasphemer.

Did not injured innocence then call forth some one
to plead her cause 1 Ah no ! no one arose to defend the
innocent prisoner and wipe off the aspersion ! Where
were his professed friends. His disciples had deserted
him. Peter and John, indeed, seemed to have somewhat
recovered themselves from their fright, but they still
remained at a distance, and dared not speak in his de-

Jesus was condemned by the council of the sanhe-
drim, and they commanded him to be conducted to the


judgment-hall of Pontius Pilate, the governor or vice-
gerent of the Roman emperor, and there to undergo his
final trial.

The persecutors of Jesus concluded that he was then
delivered into their power, and continued with greater
impudence than before to afflict him, and to treat him
with insolent contempt, as if he were an object of sport.
They derided his claims of majesty, and clothed him
with purple and scarlet ; they crowned him with thorns,
put a reed into his hand in resemblance of a sceptre, and
then with bended knees paid their homage to him in
derision, as King of the Jews. Nor did their scornful
abuses stop here. With shameful wantonness and bar-
barity, they spit upon him, and smote him on the head,
that his crown of thorns might pierce deeper into his
temples, and give him more excruciating pain. Even
this did not suffice. Pilate brought him forth before the
assembled multitude, bearing the marks of that contempt
and cruelty with which he had been treated, arrayed in
mock majesty, and having his face defiled and covered
with blood.

Probably Pilate supposed that the compassion of the
blood thirst)^ populace might at length be excited, and
therefore having the second time declared that Jesus had
not been convicted of any guilt, he exclaimed, " Behold
the man," as if he had said, "While you view the
wretchedness of the prisoner, upon whom no fault is
proved, let your resentment be appeased, and all further
persecution cease." But to prevent lenient measures,
their very teachers and leaders cried out with the same
acrimonious spirit as before, " crucify him, crucify him."
In vain did the Judge continue to assert the prisoner's
innocence, and finding that nothing would satisfy the


people but the delivery of Jesus for crucifixion, he passed
the solemn sentence, and consented to have the " innocent
Jesus" executed.

We might have expected that they would then proceed
to stone him, according to their law, and as they had fre-
quently attempted to do in the violence of their rage.
But how then would the scriptures have been fulfilled'?
They foretold that the Messiah should suffer a particu-
lar kind of death, different from that which the Jewish
statutes appointed, a death of peculiar ignominy and ex-
cessive torture. And it is worthy of remark, that as the
Jews were at this time in subjection to a foreign yoke,
and the privilege of inflicting capital punishments was
vested in their conquerors, so the code of the Roman
power had annexed to the crimes of the basest of man-
kind the pains of crucifixion. This was the cruel death
that the Saviour suffered, an account of which the evan-
gelists have given in the most temperate and candid man-
ner, without any apparent attempt to fire the imagination
or rouse the passions in his favor. We are conscious
of our incapacity to add any thing of importance to their
narratives, but it may not be amiss to make a few remarks
upon some of the circumstances attending this momen-
tous event.

The instrument of torture and death having been pre-
pared, a part of it was laid upon Jesus, and he was re-
quired to carry the cumberous load till his fainting body

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Online LibraryRobert BirdBiography of the Saviour and his apostles : with a portrait of each → online text (page 1 of 5)