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Commentary from 




Rivingtons, London, 1884



[JULY 25.]

The festival of St. James, the brother of St. John the Divine, is not noticed in the Lectionary of St. Jerome, but has a Collect appointed in St. Gregory's Sacramentary, and is also in the ancient English Calendars of Bede and of King Athelstan's Psalter. In the Eastern Church it is kept on April 30th, but in the Western it has always been observed on July 25th.

St. James being a brother of the beloved disciple, his relationship to our Lord may be seen in the table printed under that Apostle's day [p. 79]. With St. John he received the appellation of Boanerges from our Lord, and has always been surnamed the Great, or the Greater, by the Church: but neither of these designations can be satisfactorily accounted for. Some special position was given to St. James and St. John, as well as to St. Peter, by their Divine Master; and the request of their mother, probably Salome, that they might sit on either hand of our Lord in His Kingdom, was doubtless founded on the choice thus made by Him, coupled with such a strong faith in His Person and Power as was displayed on another occasion, when the sons of Zebedee sought authority from Christ to destroy the Samaritan city that had rejected Him. [Luke ix. 52.] Their Master had told His servants that they should eat and drink at His table in His Kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel; and since He had given to St. Peter the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, the other two favoured Apostles besought that to them might be given the two posts of honour and suffering next to His Person.

St. James was the first of the Apostles who suffered Martyrdom, and the only one whose death is recorded in the New Testament. The fact of his death is told us in the modern English Epistle of the day, but of its circumstances nothing more is known than that he suffered through the hatred of Herod Agrippa. Tradition says that his accuser repented as the Apostle was on his way to the place of execution, and that having received the blessing of the servant of Christ, he professed himself a Christian, and was baptized in the blood of martyrdom at the same time with St. James. The Apostolic mantle of St. James appears to have fallen upon St. Paul, and perhaps we may look upon the latter as fulfilling the expectations which must have been raised by the place which the elder son of Zebedee occupied near the Person of our Lord, and by the title of Boanerges which was given to him.

St. James the Great is the patron saint of Spain, and his remains are supposed to be preserved at Compostella. "St. Iago of Compostella" holds the same relation to the history of that kingdom which St. George does to that of England: and both names have been used as the battle-cry of Christian hosts when they went forth to stem the torrent of that Mahometan and Moorish invasion which once threatened to drive Christianity from its throne in Europe as it has driven it from Asia.

Introit.—Thy friends are exceeding honourable unto me, O God: greatly is their beginning strengthened. Ps. O Lord, Thou hast searched me out and known me: Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising. Glory be.