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Peter's interpreter, and some suppose that he rendered into Greek the Aramaic or Hebrew-Syriac discourses of the Apostle both in his own Gospel and Peter's letters.
It is not probable that Peter and his brother Andrew were entirely uneducated men. The Jews legally enforced the attendance of all youths on schools for instruction, but when brought before the Council (Acts iv. 13) it was perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant. The word translated "unlearned," however, may rather convey the idea of a layman's education in contrast to that of a Rabbi, and Peter, although he may not have acquired the knowledge of Greek in early life, still appears to have spoken it with Cornelius at a later day. Cornelius was not at all likely to have spoken Syriac, and no interpreter is mentioned. In Galilee they had much intercourse with foreigners, and the Greek language was the medium of common intercourse around the Mediterranean Sea.
While the rulers, however, marvelled at Peter as an unlearned man, there was that about him which convinced them "that he had been with Jesus"—with "JESUS OF NAZARETH "—who was so called by many classes.
By demons, asking if He was come to destroy them. (Marki. 24.) By the soldiers who arrested Him. (John xviii. 5.)
By the people to blind Bartimeus; by servants at His trial. By Pilate on the cross. (John xix. 19.)
By the disciples on the way to Emmaus. (Luke xxiv. 19.) By Peter in the Pentecostal sermon. (Acts ii. 22.)
And the title was verified even by our Lord Himself after His ascension, when He met with Paul on His way to Damascus "I am Jesus of Nazareth whom thou persecutest."
In Acts xxix. 5, the term Nazarene, or inhabitant of Nazareth, is applied to believers in Christ with contempt. Paul was said to be a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. The name still exists in Arabic as an ordinary designation of Christians, and the horrors of the mutiny in India were connected with a pretended ancient prophecy that the "Nazarenes," after holding power there for a hundred years, would be expelled.
But this name, made striking in so many ways, was really one of the predicted names of the Messiah. Netzer was the
proper Hebrew name of Nazareth. The Messiah is expressly called a Netzer in Isaiah xi. 1" a branch," shoot, or sprout of Jesse, a humble and despised descendant of the decayed royal family. "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk," says Peter to the lame man. "And Jesus came and dwelt in Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene."-Not of a Nazarite (as the marginal references would delusively signify) had the prophets prophesied, but of Netzer the BRANCH (Jer. xxxiii. 5; Zechariah iii. 8, vi. 12), who came first in His humiliation, and who shall come again, as Isaiah depicts Him, IN HIS GLORY, to bring the day when the wolf shall lie down with the lamb, and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea; and in that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign of the people, and to it shall the Gentiles seek, no longer fearing, as now, the Judaizing spirit of the Jew as we know him, but willing to acknowledge that the chosen seed has inherited the Gentiles, and that the Christian Church HAS been built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets (who were all the men of Israel), Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone.
The 11th of Isaiah contains a declaration in connection with this day of millennial rest which is specific in its topography :—
"In that day the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush (Afghanistan?), and from Elam (Persia ?), and from Shinar (Mesopotamia?), and from Hamath (Syria?), and from the islands of the sea (Great Britain and Ireland?).”
For 1,800 years, during the main course of the "times of the Gentiles," the Church of Christ may have been thinking of this prophetic "remnant" chiefly in reference to the house of JUDAH, known as "Jews," for in all the regions indicated it is true that Jews are found; but in the very region where the house of ISRAEL was lost and hidden, it is nevertheless true that there is a separate and undoubted "remnant" of their race enduring to this day with a history dating from the times of the Apostles.
THE PRESERVED OF ISRAEL.
In the year 1834 Dr. Grant, a Christian physician from the United States, was induced by the American Board of Missions to undertake a medical practice among the Nestorians of Persia, who had been visited by Drs. Smith and Dwight in 1831.
A pleasant voyage of forty-eight days brought him to Smyrna. He then reached Constantinople and Trebizond, when began the 700 miles of carriage by saddle over the mountains and plains of Armenia, till he reached the sunny vales of Persia. This twenty-eight days of slow caravan journeying brought the traveller to Tabreez, when he met with Dr. Perkins, and, with their brave-hearted missionary wives, they proceeded to Oroomiah.
Here the sick, the lame, the blind, soon gathered around by scores and by hundreds. The arrival was hailed with general joy, especially by the Nestorians, who welcomed us (says Dr. Grant) with the warmest kindness and affection. Their bishops and priests took their seats at our table, bowed with us at our family altar, and regarded us not as rivals but as coadjutors.
We found much in their character to raise our hopes. They have the greatest reverence for the Scriptures, and desire to have them spread among the people in a language that all can understand. Their forms are more simple and scriptural than those of the Papal and other Oriental Churches. They abhor image-worship, auricular confession, and the doctrine of purgatory, and hence they have common ground with Protestants, and have themselves been called the Protestants of Asia.
Nevertheless, in many ways they had sunk into the darkness of ignorance and superstition. None but their clergy could read and write; the education of their women was utterly neglected, and they attached more importance to forms and fasts and feasts than to purity of heart and character. A few among them, however, still led exemplary lives, and sighed over the degradation of their people. Somewhat of vital piety yet continued to burn upon their altars, and we trust, says Dr. Grant, to see it again shine forth in living flame. Twelve or fourteen free schools were soon opened in the villages of the plain; a girls' boarding school was established on the Mission premises; portions of the Scriptures were at once translated into the spoken tongue of the Nestorians, a printing-press was sent out, and the bishops willingly opened their churches for Sabbath-schools and the preaching of the Gospel. All this was accomplished by the year 1840. They welcomed from the first the American missionaries, who were nobleminded Christian men, and came to them with the sole object of spreading Bibletruth, and bringing back the people to a humble holy life. Dr. Perkins was the great pioneer of the Nestorian Mission, and laboured in Oroomiah for five-and-thirty years with great success.
Ask any intelligent Nestorian for information relating to his ancestry,
Dr. Grant, and he replies at once, "We are the sons of Israel ;" and we might with as much propriety deny him the name of CHRISTIAN as refuse our assent to this more ancient title, since they lay claim to both, while their rites, customs, and other circumstances furnish satisfactory testimony of it.
We call them Nestorians, says Dr. Dwight, but they dislike the name. They call themselves, and are known among their neighbours as Nusrany, "Nazarenes;" they sometimes add Syriani, which is actually calling themselves Syrian Christians.
They are a remnant, adds Dr. Perkins, of that once influential and active Missionary Church, the oldest of Christian sects, who spread, though their home was in Kurdistan, through India, Tartary, and Tibet, into China.
Such is the unbiassed evidence of the three noble missionaries who have visited and dwelt among these people in the present century. All three have now finished their course, and can add no more to their treasured testimony. Of Dr. Perkins especially the editor can write from personal knowledge and highly-prized correspondence. He passed through England, after spending a year in his native country, just after the Damascus massacre, and as he was on his way back to Oroomiah. He had then been "shut away," as he said, "for nearly thirty years from the civilized world," and devoting his life to the interesting and joyful task of declaring the Word of his Master to the "preserved of Israel Christians. It was to this honoured witness that the Nestorians owed their modern New Testament in Syro-Chaldaic. This spoken language had never been written, and of course not printed, till the Mission-press, arriving from America in 1840, threw off a small Scripture tract as its first fruit, to the astonishment and rapture of the native co-translators, whose first utterance was, "It is time to give glory to God." In 1846 the New Testament was carried through the press, and in 1852, the year before the Crimean war, THE WHOLE BIBLE was printed in the Syro-Chaldaic, the language the people could understand, the ancient and Modern Syriac being given in parallel columns.
The ancient Syriac was the language of their few and rare MSS. books of Scripture. Dr. Perkins tells us they had retained from the ravages of their deadly enemies-the Mohammedans-only six or eight copies of the ancient New Testament, which were rolled up and hidden in secret places in the churches situate in the wildest mountain districts. One of these copies he brought with him to England. The rare manuscript book, written on parchment, was 600 years old, and three or four inches thick, rudely bound in literal boards, and had been presented to Dr. Grant by a Nestorian patriarch as a mark of the joy his visit caused, and because he was the first known visitor from the Western world to the Tyari mountains since the days of Xenophon.
Long centuries of persecution and humiliation had been the portion of
the Nestorians, cast out from time immemorial by the other Oriental Churches. They welcomed these English-speaking missionaries, who were the first among modern Christians to sympathize with their afflicted lot. The Vaudois of the Eastern world, they have clung as for their life to their rare parchments during long ages of bloody persecution, and during an entire isolation from the rest of Christendom.
All hail, then, to these children of the ancient Nazarenes! a ringleader of whose sect was our Apostle Paul (Acts xxiv. 5), that "pestilent fellow —that mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world," according to the orator Tertullus. The Nazarenes, therefore, could not have been unknown to Peter, their Syriac Apostle. Their race, the place, and the language, bring the two together. They are not unknown to Rome. Canon Fabiani said of them in the recent discussion, "No heretics-not even the Nestorians, have dared to deny Peter's Episcopacy in Rome for 1,560 years," so that Rome traces them back to the third century after Christ, and is doubtless quite aware how much else they denied of her teaching.
Dr. Grant says that he received emphatic testimony "from their enemies the Jews of Oroomiah, who acknowledged that the Nestorians were the sons of Israel, but as they had departed from the faith of their fathers, they were ashamed to own them as brethren." These Jews professed to have records concerning the time and circumstances of their conversion to Christianity, though they would not display them. The Chief Rabbi, however, said in the Synagogue before three of the American missionaries, that the Nestorians apostatized from the Jewish faith in the days of Christ or His Apostles, and as Peter finds, if he did not found "a Church in Babylon," we cannot be far wrong in connecting that early Church with the "Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, the dwellers in Mesopotamia," who listened to the tongues of Pentecost, were enlightened and converted under Peter's sermon, baptized and taken into communion and fellowship with the Apostles afterwards, and whose subsequent experience has been like that of the Vaudois, " 'being driven up into the wilderness to a place prepared of God" for shelter from the persecutions of Satan the "serpent," and the "dragon" of the book of Revelation. The name of their mountains, "Tyari," means "sheep-folds."
This Syrian Church, as well as the strangers of Israel scattered abroad, has needed all the exhortations in Peter's letters to patient suffering for righteousness' sake, and in 1 Peter iv. 12 he says, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you, but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that when His glory shall be revealed ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
The term Nazarene is specific in its application to the Nestorians; it is never applied to the Armenians, and it has a specific relation to Israelites converted to Christianity. But the Apostles in a general council decided