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ST. THOMAS THE APOSTLE.
Almighty and everlasting God, who, for the more confirmation of the faith, didst suffer thy holy Apostle Thomas to be doubtful in thy Son's resurrection: Grant us so perfectly, and without all doubt, to believe in thy Son Jesus Christ, that our faith in thy sight may never be reproved. Hear us, O Lord, through the same Jesus Christ; to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, now and evermore. Amen.
HE memoirs of St. Thomas in the new testa
ment are very short. Concerning his birth, parentage and education it is intirely silent, having only mentioned his name in the catalogue of the twelve Apostles. That he was a Jew is evident, and in all probability a Galilean. The nanies Thomas and Didymus which he bore, are synonymous, þeing Hebrew and Greek words of the same interpretation, both signifying the Twin. For it was usual with the Jews, when they travelled into a foreign country, to assume a name borrowed from the language of that country, but corresponding in its meaning with their Hebrew appellation. Thus the Messiah is called Christ; Cephas, Peter; and Tabitha, Dorcas.
The first memorable circumstance of St. Thomas which is recorded (for no particular mention is made of his call to become a follower or disciple of Christ) is that which we find, John xi. 16; where we read that, on occasion of the death of Lazarus, our Lord proposed to His disciples a journey from the other side of Jordan to Bethany
where Lazarus had lived, for the purpose of raising him to life. The disciples in general remonstrated with their Lord on the danger to which He would expose Himself through the malice of the Jews, and dissuaded Him from incurring so great a risk. But Thomas, finding that Christ was resolutely bent on going, exhorted his brethren to accompany Him, though at the peril of their lives; avowing his conviction that it was better to die with Him, than to forsake their Divine Master. O that all His followers, in every circumstance of trial, may form the same decision, and act accordingly!
Our Apostle is again introduced to notice, John xiv. 5. Our Lord told His disciples that He was going toʻleave them for the purpose of preparing a place for them in heaven; and reminded them that they were acquainted, through the instructions which He had given them, with the way that led thither. St. Thomas, being probably infected with the prevailing notion of a temporal kingdom which the disciples expected their Lord to assume, replied, that they were unacquainted with the place to which He was going, and therefore could not know the way that led to it. In answer to which our Lord points Himself out as “the way, the truth, and - the life;" the “ all in all” of salvation to lost sinners.
The only remaining passage of the sacred story relative to St. Thomas, is that which forms the preface of our collect, the consideration of which we shall defer till we have slightly glanced at the notices which tradition has preserved of the subsequent history of our Apostle.
The blessed Jesus being gone to heaven, and having eminently given gifts and miraculous
powers to the Apostles, St. Thomas, moved thereto by some Divine intimation, is said to have dispatched Thaddæus, one of the seventy disciples, to Abgarus toparch of Edessa (between whom and our Saviour the letters commonly said to have passed are still extant in Eusebius) whom he first cured of an inveterate distemper, and afterward converted, together with his subjects, to the faith. The Apostolical province assigned to St. Thomas (as Origen tells us) was Parthia; but Sophronius and others inform us that he also preached the Gospel to the Medes, Persians, Carmans, Hyrcani, Bactrians, and the adjacent nations. Having travelled through these countries, he at last came to India, where he also preached with great success till he fell a victim to the jealousy of the Brahmans, whose superstition vanished at the presence of Divine truth. For they barbarously murdered him by thrusting him through with a lance in a solitary place, whither he was accustomed to retire for the purposes of prayer and meditation. , His martyrdom is said to have taken place at Malipur, the metropolis of a kingdom on the coast of Coromandel, not far from the influx of the Ganges into the gulph of Bengal. This account, however, seems to rest on very doubtful testimony.*
From the uncertain notices of tradition we return to the sure word of truth in the Scriptures, for the purpose of deriving instruction from that passage of the sacred story on which our collect is founded. Our collect divides itself into three parts--A preface or introduction, reciting the principal passage in the life of St.
* See Calmet's Dictionary of the Holy Bible,
Thomas, which is recorded in the New Testament-A prayer founded on that circumstance --And the ground on which our hope of success in prayer is built, accompanied with a doxology addressed to the ever-blessed Trinity.
The introductory part of our collect recites the conduct of Divine Providence in the principal circumstance of the life of St. Thomas, which is recorded in the New Testament.
The anecdote to which our collect refers, and which is the subject of the Gospel annexed thereto, is equally humiliating and encouraging. For in the narrative of the Apostle's unbelief we survey a picture of our own; and in the condescending manner adopted by our Lord towards his perverse disciple, we see a specimen cf His gracious conduct towards all His follow
O that our present meditation may be the means of deepening our self-abasement, and of quickening our souls to increasing admiration and adoration of the grace which is in Christ Jesus our Lord ! If we are led to close selfexamination, we shall assuredly discover abundant reason to take shame to ourselves on account of our own guilty incredulity in relation to the credible testimony which is afforded us on the most important subjects, and shall wonder at the Divine forbearance and compassion which have been exercised towards us.
On the eve of that very day in which our Lord arose from the dead, He appeared to His disciples for the purpose of relieving their minds from the load of sorrow which His death had occasioned, and of satisfying all their doubts respecting the truth of His resurrection. It may
be observed that true and fervid love, such as that which Christ bore for His disciples,
cannot endure a long separation from its objects, withhold from them any comfort which it is in its power to administer, nor leave them under any trouble which it is able to remove. O that the love of Christians to their Lord bore a stronger resemblance of His to them! On the occasion above-mentioned Thomas was absent from his brethren. Whether his absence were justifiable or not, we are not informed. But it seems as if nothing but very urgent business indeed should have separated him from the other disciples at this critical moment; nor can we suppose that his mind could have been sufficiently at ease to have transacted any secular business at this awful juncture. However this may be, it is certain that disciples ought not to “ forsake the assembling of themselves together,' and that, whenever they do without urgent necessity, they are sure to suffer for their folly.
Our Lord's second visit was deferred for eight days from the former, till the Christian Sabbath again returned. This delay might be intended to answer several important purposes. Its object might be the general benefit of His Apostles, who would thus gradually be weaned from His personal presence, of which they were soon to be deprived altogether, and the chastisement of Thomas for his neglect of the former opportunity which had been afforded to the disciples of enjoying their Lord's presence, and for the unreasonable hesitation which he indulged respecting the fact which was attested by all his brethren. It was, moreover, an useful trial of faith to all the Apostles, who might in the interval be tempted to dispute the evidence of their own senses, or the constancy of their Lord's affection. But another and a principal reason