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spirit of every reader may be excited by the survey which has been taken, to join with increased fervency in the collect which has been under our consideration! And may God hear and answer us “through Jesus Christ our Lord. “ Amen."
ST. MATTHEW THE APOSTLE'S DAY.
O Almighty God, who by thy blessed Son didst call Matthero from the receipt of custom to be an Apostle and Evangelist ; Grant us grace to forsake all covetous desires and inordinate love of riches, and to follow the same thy Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth, with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
T. Matthew, who was also named Levi,
was by birth “a Hebrew of the Hebrews," though by his occupation a Roman officer; for both his names shew that his extraction was purely Jewish. He was probably a Galilean, and is said to have been born at Nazareth where our Lord was educated. He was the son of Alpheus and of Mary, a sister or relation of the blessed Virgin. His business was that of a pub
. lican or toll-gatherer to the Romans, an office of bad repute among the Jews. Among the Romans it was esteemed a place of power and credit, which was not commonly conferred on any persons but Roman knights. These officers, being sent into the provinces to collect the several species of tribute due to the government, were accustomed to employ the natives under them, as being best acquainted with the affairs and customs of their own country. Two things concurred to render this office odious to the Jews. First, the persons who managed it were usually covetous and guilty of unjust exaction. For as they farmed the customs of the Romans,
they were strongly tempted by their situation to employ various methods of extortion, in order that they might be able to pay their rent and enrich themselves. Zaccheus, the chief of these farmers, seems to have been conscious of guilt in the discharge of his office, when, after his conversion, he proposed to make a fourfold restitution to all whom he had fraudulently injured. Upon this account the publicans became infamous even among the Gentile subjects of the Roman empire, who frequently. speak of them as thieves and public robbers, and worse members of a community, more voracious and des structive in a city than wild beasts in a forest. The second thing which made the office of a publican so odious to the Jews was this, that the tribute which was imposed on them was not only burthensome to their estates, but also an affront to the liberty of the nation. For they looked on themselves as a free-born people, who had been invested with this privilege of immunity from tribute immediately by God Himself, and they regarded their taxation as a daily and standing proof of their enslaved condition; a consideration which of all others was the most galling to their minds, and which betrayed them into many unfortunate rebellions against the Romans, and at length terminated in their total ruin. To this it may be added that the publicans were not only obliged by the nature of their occupation to have frequent converse with the Gentiles, which the Jews held to be unlawful and abominable, but, being Jews themselves, they rigorously exacted of their brethren the Roman dues, whereby they seemed to conspire with the Romans to entail perpetual slavery on their own nation,
On these accounts publicans , became so universally odious to the Jewish nation, that it was considered unlawful to do them any office of common kindnes and courtesy; nay, it was not thought sinful to cheat a publican, and that under the sanction of a solemn oath. It was highly discreditable to eat or drink, to walk or travel with them. Publicans were treated as common thieves and robbers; and money received from them was prohibited from being mingled with the rest of a man's property, as it was supposed to have been obtained by means of rapine and violence. They were not admitted as evidences in any cause; and so infamous were they deemed, that they were not only ba. nished from all religious communion, but also were shunned in all civil and commercial engagements as the pests of their country, whose communications were infectious and as vile as those of the very heathens. Hence there was a
. common proverb among them, “ Take not a “ wife from that family wherein there is a pub. «lican; for they are all publicans," that is, thieves, robbers, and wicked persons. To this proverbial usage our Lord refers when, speaking of a contumacious sinner, whom neither private reproof nor the public censures and admonitions of the church can reclaim, be says, “Let him “ he unto thee as a heathen man and a publi“ can.” And elsewhere publicans and sinners are joined together as persons of an equally vile reputation.
of this odious office and character was our Apostle St. Matthew. And his particular business seems to have been the collection of custom from the exports and imports on the sea of
Galilee, and the tribute due from passengers thereon. For this purpose his office was by the seaside, where he “sat at the receipt of custom.”
Our Lord having cured a well known paralytic, retired out of Capernaum to walk by the sea-side, where He taught the people that flocked after Him. Here He saw Matthew sitting in his custom-office, whom He called to come and follow Him. The man was rich, was engaged in a very profitable business, and was a wise and prudent person, no one of a weak understanding being qualified for such an office. He understood, no doubt, what a compliance with the call of Christ would cost him that he must exchange wealth for poverty, and all the comforts of opulence for the hardships which must be felt in the train of a poor and despised master who had not where to lay His head. But he overlooked all these considerations, and aban. doned all his worldly interests and relations, that he might become the disciple of Christ. It is probable that he was previously acquainted in some measure with our Saviour's person and doctrine, or at least had heard of His miracles, since he lived at Capernaum, the place of our Lord's usual residence, where His sermons and miracles had been so frequent, that our Apostle's mind, as it may well be supposed, was prepared to receive those deep and abiding impressions which the Divine call now made on his heart.
For the purpose of shewing that he was not discontented with his new situation, and that he did not consider himself to be a loser by the exchange, St. Matthew made a great dinner at his house for our Lord and His disciples, to which