Page images
PDF
EPUB

BERKELEY LIBRARY

error and to sin. Is it irreverent to these two blessed Apostles, to whom we owe more than to any two mere men who ever lived upon earth, thus to venture to notice their defects ?—Nay, rather, to refuse to notice them were an irreverence to that Holy Spirit which has recorded them for our instruction. But observe now, if these great Apostles, so unlike in many respects, had yet in their early life this same fault of over and misguided zeal, may we not think that there is something in zeal, even when in error, which promises well at least for future excellence ;---that theirs is not a hopeful state who are wholly without it; or to speak more properly, are zealous only for their own interest and their own pleasure ?

? And when we see again how this false zeal, in both St. Paul and St. John, was purified by God's Spirit from its error and its evil; that it was no more narrow-minded, no more violent, but wise and gentle, yet still earnest withal, and fervent ; directing its abhorrence only against wickedness, and not against differences, or even against errors in things of no moral importance; and even against wickedness, striving not with the fire from heaven, nor with the high priest's power, to bind and to imprison, but with patience and reproof, and moral influence only, then we may learn how our natural qualities may be perfected by Christ's Spirit, how in us, too, our false and violent zeal, if such be

[ocr errors]

our defect, may be purified and softened, --how our false and selfish indifference, if that be our fault rather, may be strengthened and enkindled into the holy flame of Christian charity.

St. John's latter life was passed in Asia Minor; and it was there, according to all appearance, that his Gospel and Epistles were written. The exact date of either cannot be fixed; but the Epistles cannot be placed earlier than the period of St. Paul's first imprisonment at Rome; and probably both the Epistles and Gospel were written still later, during St. Paul's second imprisonment, or after his death. It is quite clear that his Gospel was designed for those who were already familiar with the principal events and discourses of our Lord's ministry; that his Epistles refer to a period when Christianity had been for some time in the world, when, as in our own days, many were Christians in name who were not so in reality. In this respect St. John's Epistles are a painful contrast to the earlier Epistles of St. Paul, in which he delights to consider all those to whom he is writ.. ing as the heirs of eternal life, and cannot bear to think that either height or depth, or any other creature, can ever separate from the love of Christ those hearts which have once believed in Him. But St. John is obliged to warn the Christians of his time, that they might not dare to indulge such hopes of all who bore Christ's pamé.

“ Little

9

1

BERKELEY LIBRAR

children, let no man deceive you : he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as Christ is righteous.”

It is universally allowed that St. John lived to a great age, insomuch that as years passed away, the impression grounded on a misinterpretation of our Lord's words, that he should not die at all, gained strength, and he himself in his Gospel thought it expedient to contradict it. He outlived the destruction of Jerusalem, still remaining in Asia Minor, and principally at or near Ephesus. There, in extreme old age, he still continued to repeat that favourite lesson which we find so often in his Epistles, “ Little children, love one another.” And a story is told that when some one asked him why he confined himself to saying the same thing, he answered, “ Because that one thing contains every thing.” This is the fitting conclusion surely of the life of that Apostle whom Jesus loved.

Let me add, in conclusion, a few words more with respect to St. John's Gospel. I have said before that it was designed for those who were familiar with the principal events and discourses of our Lord's ministry; for it mentions scarcely any of those recorded by the other Evangelists, and only notices six miracles in all, although in one or two places it speaks of our Lord as having wrought a great number. So again it leaves out the Sermon on the Mount, and most of the parables,

which having been early recorded and reported by several writers, were already well known; but it gives many particular conversations, and especially those held by our Lord in Jerusalem, former writers having noticed principally such as took place in Galilee. And still more, the earlier accounts of our Lord's life had confined themselves to a history, in the common sense of the word, of what took place during His earthly ministry; some, as we see by St. Mark's Gospel, went back no farther than His baptism ; while those who went back farthest still, related only the circumstances of His birth, and its miraculous announcement. The earlier Evangelists spoke of Jesus of Nazareth, a Prophet mighty in word and deed, the son of David, wonderfully born of a virgin, whom the chief priests and scribes rejected, whom Pilate crucified, and whom God raised from the dead. But St. John was to tell more than this; he was to enter as it were within the veil, to go back to times, if I may so speak, before time was; to speak not only of things done on earth, but of the things of heaven. Hence bis Gospel opens with declaring that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God: that by Him all things were made; and that He became flesh, and dwelt among us. With St. John, therefore, our Lord's resurrection is something more than a mere rising from death to life; it is

BERKELEY LIBRARY

Christ's return to that Divinity which He had before the world was, and which for our sakes He for a while veiled in our nature; and thus the last thing recorded in his Gospel,—for the twenty-first chapter is clearly an addition made by him at a later period,—the last thing recorded is the confession of the Apostle Thomas, when he believed that Christ was truly risen, and said unto him, “My Lord, and my God.” Thus Christ was acknowledged upon earth to be what St. John in the beginning of his Gospel had declared him to be from all eternity; and the words of Thomas, at the end of the twentieth chapter, do but repeat the truth which St. John had stated before in his own words in the beginning of the first.

Such is St. John's Gospel, the main pillar of our faith and hope, the most effectual enkindler of our love. It stands perfect alike as an historical witness, and as a divine teacher; the work of one who heard, and saw with his eyes, and looked upon, and whose hands handled, that Eternal Life of whom he wrote ; the work of one whom Jesus loved, whom the Holy Spirit endued with wisdom and with power; power over outward evil, and over inward; wisdom which understood all mysteries and all knowledge. The wisdom and the power were given him for our sakes, for the confirmation of our faith, and the increase of our spiritual knowledge. But wisdom and power, even

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »