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Jesus. That he should have been not merely one of those who heard John, and were baptized by him, but that he should have been of the select few who became attached to him as his disciples, argues a deep religious feeling; and that he should have left John, and followed Jesus, apparently on the single word of John, that Jesus was the Lamb of God, seems to indicate in him some sense of personal need of such a Saviour as the title “Lamb of God” implies.
Though not as yet, permanently attached to the Lord as one of the twelve, he certainly accompanied Him in His earliest ministry, and was present at the miracle in Cana, and the first cleansing of the Temple, for the account of both these bears every mark of having been written by an eye-witness; and the same may be said of the Lord's interview with Nicodemus, for it is never so much as hinted that our Lord and the inquiring Pharisee were absolutely alone. He must have been one of the disciples who were with the Lord at Sychar. After this, he resumed his occupation of a fisherman, not from any want of belief or desire to draw back, but because he and the other disciples had no other means of getting their living, not having been yet called to live entirely with the Lord as Apostles.
When the Lord set him apart to the Apostleship, He gave to him, and to his brother James, the name of Boanerges, “sons of thunder.” This seems, at first sight, not to be in harmony with that view of him which we gather from the few hints in the Scriptures respecting his character, and which all tradition confirms, as being loving, retiring, contemplative rather than active, and somewhat feminine in gentleness. And yet there are unmistakable indications of another side of his character, as, for instance, his forbidding one to cast out devils in the Lord's Name, because he belonged not to the Apostolic company (Mark ix. 38); and, along with his brother, praying Jesus that they might call down fire from heaven upon the Samaritan village which would not receive the Lord (Luke ix. 54). “But even in these vehement utterances," as Luthardt says, “love to Jesus was the moving soul : his nature only decided the form." “How also," asks Godet, are we to explain two features of character apparently so opposite? There exist profound receptive natures, which are accustomed to shut up their impressions within themselves, and this all the more that these impressions are keen and thrilling. But, if it happens that these persons once cease to be masters of themselves, their long-restrained emotions then burst INTRODUCTION.
vii forth in sudden explosions, which fill the persons around them with amazement. Does not the character of John belong to this order?"
There must have been that in this Apostle which raised him, in the estimation of the Searcher of hearts, above the majority of his brethren, in that Jesus selected him, together with his brother and Simon Peter, from among the rest of the Apostles, to witness such events as the raising of Jairus's daughter, the Transfiguration, and the Agony. He was the only Apostle who stood by the Cross, and then had the unspeakable honour of receiving from the Lord the charge of His mother, so that he should be to her in His place as her son. The Saviour must have seen in him extraordinary worthiness thus to trust him.
In the closing scenes in the Gospel, and in the Acts of the Apostles he appears as very intimately associated with St. Peter. It is Peter who makes the sign to him to get the name of the betrayer (John xiii. 23, 24). He obtains for Peter admittance into the palace of the high priest (xviii. 16). He runs with Peter to the sepulchre (xx. 3). Peter asks the Lord respecting his destiny (xxi. 21). He goes up with Peter at the hour of prayer to the Temple (Acts ii. 1); and seems to have joined with him in the healing of the lame man (Acts iii. 11, 12). He was side by side with Peter before the council (Acts iv. 13); and he was sent in company with him to lay hands upon the Samaritan converts (Acts viii. 14). But in no one of these cases is he reported to have said a single word. All the speaking falls to the lot of St. Peter. The last notice of his sojourn in Jerusalem is in Gal. ii. 9, where, fourteen years after St. Paul's first visit, he, together with Cephas and James, perceiving the grace of God in Paul and Barnabas, gave to them the right hand of fellowship.
Respecting his further sojourn in Jerusalem, both Scripture and tradition are silent. In the Book of the Revelation, of which the date is uncertain, he appears as exercising Apostolic rule over the Churches of Asia Minor; for the Lord, through him, sends letters to the several angels or bishops of these Churches; and Patmos, the island to which he had been banished for a time, was about twenty miles from that coast, opposite Miletus.
The early Fathers are unanimous about this district being the scene of the labours of his last years, and exceedingly beautiful some of these notices are. Eusebius gives one, taken from a lost
INTRODUCTION. book of Clement of Alexandria, which gives an astonishing view of the love and earnestness of the Apostle as a pastor of souls :
“Listen to a story which is no fiction, but real history, handed down and carefully preserved, respecting the Apostle John. For, after the tyrant (Domitian) was dead, coming from the Isle of Patmos to Ephesus, he went also, when called, to the neighbouring regions of the Gentiles ; in some to appoint bishops, in some to institute entire new Churches; in others to appoint to the ministry some one of those that were pointed out by the Holy Ghost. When he came, therefore, to one of those cities . . . . he turned to the bishop appointed, and seeing a youth of fine stature, graceful countenance, and ardent mind, be said, Him I commend to you with all earnestness in the presence of the Church, and of Christ.' The bishop having taken him and promised all .... he returned to Ephesus. The presbyter taking the youth home, ... . educated, cherished, and restrained him, and at length baptized him. After this he relaxed his former care and watchfulness, as if he had now committed him to a perfect safeguard in the seal of the Lord. But certain idle, dissolute fellows, familiar with every kind of wickedness, unhappily attach themselves to him, thus prematurely freed from restraint. At first they lead him on by expensive entertainments. Then going out at night to plunder, they take him with them .... At length, renouncing the salvation of God, he, having committed some great crime, since he was now ruined, expected to suffer equally with the rest. Taking, therefore, these same associates, and forming them into a band of robbers, he became their captain, surpassing them all in violence. Time elapsed, and on a certain occasion they sent for John. The Apostle, having set in order those other matters for which he came, said, “ Come, bishop, return me my deposit !' The bishop at first thought of a deposit of money .... but when John said, 'I demand the young man, and the soul of a brother,' the presbyter, groaning and also weeping, said, 'He is dead.'
How and what death ?' • He is dead to God,' said he. He has turned out wicked and abandoned, and at last a robber.' The Apostle, hearing this, tore his garment, and beating his head with great lamentation said, • I left a fine keeper of a brother's soul! But let a horse now be got ready, and some one to guide me on my way.' He rode as he was, away from the church, and coming to the country was taken prisoner by the outguard of the banditti. He neither attempted to flee, nor refused to be taken; but cried out : “ For this very purpose am I come ; conduct me to your captain.' He, in the meantime, stood waiting, armed as he was. But, as he recognized John advancing towards him, overcome with shame, he turned about to flee. The Apostle, however, pursued him with all his might, forgetful of his age, and crying out, “Why dost thou fly, my son, from me, thy father, thy defenceless, aged father ? Have compassion on me, my son; fear not,
Thou still hast hope of life. I will intercede with Christ for thee. Should it be necessary I will cheerfully suffer death for thee, as Christ for us. I will give my life for thine. Stay; believe Christ hath sent me.' Hearing this he first stopped with downcast looks; then threw away his arms; then trembling, lamenting bitterly, and embracing the old man as he came up, attempted to plead for himself with his lamentations as much as he was able ; as if baptized a second time with his own tears, and only concealing his right hand. But the Apostle pledging himself, and solemnly assuring him that he had found pardon for him in his prayers at the hands of Christ, praying on his bended knees, and kissing his right hand, as cleansed from all iniquity, conducted him back again to the Church. Then supplicating with frequent prayers, contending with constant fastings, and softening his mind with various consolatory declarations, he did not leave him, as it is said, until he had restored him to the Church" (" Eccles. Hist.” iii. 23).
The occasion of the writing of his Gospel is thus described in Eusebius:
The three Gospels, previously written, having been distributed among all, and handed to him, they say that he admitted them, giving his testimony to their truth; but that there was only wanting in the narrative, the account of the things done by Christ, among the first of His deeds, and at the commencement of the Gospel. And this was the truth. For it is evident that the other three Evangelists only wrote the deeds of our Lord for one year after the imprisonment of John the Baptist, and intimated this in the very beginning of their history .... The Apostle (John) therefore in his Gospel gives the deeds of Jesus before the Baptist was cast into prison, but the other three Evangelists mention the circumstances after that
One who attends to these circumstances can no longer entertain the opinion, that the Gospels are at variance with each other, as the Gospel of John comprehends the first events of Christ, but the others, the history that took place at the latter part of the time. It is probable, therefore, that for these reasons John has passed by in silence, the geneaology of our Lord, because it was written by Matthew and Luke, but that he commenced with the doctrine of the Divinity, as a part reserved for him by the Divine Spirit, as if for a superior.” (Euseb. iji. 24.)
It is evident that Eusebius here gives one reason, but not a sufficient one. If he had mentioned, in addition, that the Apostle intended also to supply the account of a ministry exercised at intervals in Jerusalem, and discourses and disputes with the Jews arising out of it, it would give a good account of the external form of the Gospel.
Tertullian speaks of St. John having, in will, suffered martyrdom
at Rome when, by order of Domitian, he was plunged into boiling oil, but escaped unhurt (Tertullian, On Prescription, ch. xxxvi.). Irenæus gives an anecdote somewhat in accordance with that vehement side of his character, which would call down fire from heaven upon those in error :
“ There are also those who heard from him (Polycarp) that John the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, 'Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within." (Iren. ch. iii., sec. 4.)
Eusebius (Bk. v.18), in a notice of the Anti-Montanist writer, Apol. lonius, tells us that he relates that a dead man was raised by the Divine Power through the same Jolin at Ephesus. Cassian has also preserved an anecdote worthy of remembrance :
“It is related that the blessed Evangelist John was one day gently caressing a partridge, and that a young man returning from hunting, seeing him thus employed, asked him in amazement how so illustrious a man could give himself up to so trifling an occupation? What dost thou carry in thy hand ? ” replied John. "A bow,' said the youth. Why is it not bent as usual ? ' • Not to take from it, by bending it too often, the elasticity which it should possess at the moment when I shall shoot forth my arrow!' Do not be shocked then, young man, at that brief solace which we allow to our mind, which otherwise losing its spring could not assist us when necessity requires it.??
Jerome relates also how, in extreme old age, when no longer able to walk, he was carried to the Christian assemblies, and there uttered over and over again the one word, "Little children, love one another." He was buried at Ephesus. I have given a tradition respecting lis burial in a note on John xxi. 23.
AUTHENTICITY OF ST. JOHN'S GOSPEL. The Catholic Church, as well as the various bodies of heretics and schismatics who have gone out from her, have, with the exception of one obscure and insignificant sect, received the Fourth Gospel as the work of the Apostle St. John, from the time of its publication to the end of the eighteenth century.
To enter somewhat into the significance of this we are to remember that, at various periods in the history of the Church, as,