Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

charge, travelling from East to West to instruct the world in the principles of the holy religion, he was sent to propagate. In this manner St. John continued to labour in the vineyard of his great Master, till death put a period to all his toils and sufferings; which happened in the beginning of Trajan's reign, in the ninetyeighth year of his age, and he was buried near Ephesus, according to Eusebius.

This great evangelist and apostle seems always to have led a single life; though some of the ancients tell us he was a married man. With regard to his natural temper, he seems to have been of an eager and resolute disposition, easily inflamed, but which age had reduced to a calmer temper. He was polished by no study or arts of learning; but, what was wanting from human art, was abundantly supplied by the excellent constitution of his mind, and that fulness of divine grace with which he was adorned: his humility was admirable, studiously concealing his own honour; for in his epistles, he never styles himself either apostle or evangelist; the title of presbyter or elder, is all he assumes, and probably in regard to his age as much as his office, in his gospel, when he speaks of the Disciple whom Jesus loved, he constantly conceals his own name, leaving the reader to discover whom he meant: love and charity he practised himself, and affectionately pressed them upon others; the great love of his Saviour towards him, seems to have inspired his soul with a larger and more generous charity than the rest. This is the great vein that runs through all his writings, especially his epistles, where he urges it as the great and peculiar law of Christianity, and without which all other pretences to the religion of the holy Jesus are vain and frivolous, useless and insignificant: and this was his constant practice to the very hour of his dissolution; for when age and the decays of nature had rendered him so weak that he was unable to preach to the people any longer, he was constantly led, at every public meeting, to the church of Ephesus, and always repeated to them the same precept, Little children love one another: and when his hearers, wearied with the constant repetition of the same thing, asked him why he never varied his discourse, he answered, “Because to love one another was the command of our blessed Saviour, and if they did nothing more, this alone was sufficient to denote whose they were, and whom they served."

The largest measures of his charity were, however, displayed in the remarkable care he took to promote the salvation of the souls of men; travelling from East to West, in propagating the principles of that religion he was sent to teach, patiently enduring every torment, surmounting every difficulty, and removing every obstacle, to save the souls of the human race, free their minds from error and idolatry, and turn them from the paths of vice and debauchery. Amongst many other instances of this kind, Eusebius relates the following.

“ St. John, during one of his visitations of the church at Ephesus, was greatly pleased with the appearance and behaviour of a young man, whom he called to him, and, with a special charge, recommended to the bishop, who undertook the trust, and promised to discharge it with the greatest fidelity: accordingly, the bishop took him home with him to his house, carefully instructed him in the principles of the Christian religion, and at last baptised and confirmed him. After he had proceeded thus far, he thought he might a little relax the reins of discipline; but the youth made a bad use of his liberty, and being debauched by evil company, be.

, . came the captain of a gang of robbers, and committed the most horrid outrages in the adjacent countries. St. John, being informed of this at his return, sharply reproved the bishop, and determined to find the young man out; never considering the dangers that would inevitably attend him, by venturing himself amongst persons of desperate fortunes : accordingly, he repaired

to the mountains where they usually abode, and being taken by one of the robbers placed as a watch, he desired to be carried to their captain, who, on seeing St. John coming towards him, immediately fled. The apos. tle forgetting his age, hastened after him ; but being unable to overtake him, he passionately cried out, • Child, why dost thou run from thy Father, an old and defenceless man? Spare me the pains of following thee, and let not terrors and despair seize upon thee. Thy salvation is not irrecoverable. Stay, and be convinced that CHRIST himself hath sent me. At these words the young man stopped, fixed his eyes upon the earth, trembled in every part, and burst into a flood of tears. And when the aged apostle approached he embraced him, and implored forgiveness with such weeping and lamentations, that he seemed to be re-baptized, and to wash away his sins with his own tears. The apostle received him with the greatest kindness, assured him that he had obtained pardon for his sins at the hands of his great Redeemer, and returned him a true penitent and convert to the church of which he was a member.

Our apostle's. care for the souls of men, is further evidenced by the writings he left to posterity. The first of which in time, though placed last in the sacred canon, is his Apocalypse, or book of Revelation, which he wrote during his banishment to Patmos. After the preface and admc:'ition given to the bishops of the seven churches in Asia, it contains a prophetic view of the persecutions the faithful were to suffer from the Jews, Heretics, and tyrannical princes, together with the peaceable and flourishing state of the church, till disturbed by other enemies; and the happiness of the church triumphant in heaven. And hence St. John is, in the strictest sense, a prophet, and has thereby one material addition to his titles, being not only an apostle and evangelist, but also a prophet: an honour peculiar to himself. St. Peter was an apostle, but no evangelist: St. Mark and St. Luke were evangelists, but no

apostles: St. Matthew, was an apostle and evangelist, but no prophet: but St. John was an apostle, an evangelist, and a prophet likewise.

His three epistles take place, in order of time, next to the Apocalypse; the first of which is catholic, be, ing calculated for all times and places, and containing the most excellent rules for the conduct of a Christian life, pressing to holiness and pureness of manners, and not to be satisfied with a naked and empty profession of religion; not to be led away with the crafty insinuations of seducers ; and cautioning men against the poi. sonous principles and practices of the Gnostics. The apostle here, according to his usual modesty conceals his name, it being of more consequence to a wise man what is said, than he who says it. It appears from St. Augustine, that this epistle was anciently inscribed to the Parthians, because, in all probability, St. John preached the gospel in Parthia. The other two epistles are but short, and directed to particular persons; the one a lady of great quality, the other to the charitable and hospitable Gaius, the kindest friend, and the most courteous entertainer of all indigent Christians, in those primitive times.

We are told by Eusebius and St. Jerom, that St. John, having perused the other three gospels, approved and confirmed them by his authority; but observing, at the same time, that these evangelists had omitted seve. ral of our blessed Saviour's transactions, particularly those which were performed before the Baptist's im prisonment, he wrote his gospel to supply what was wanting in them: and because several Heretics were at that time sprung up in the church, who denied the divinity of our blessed Saviour, he took care to guard against these heresies, by proving that our great Redeemer was God from everlasting. He largely records our Saviour's discourses, but takes little notice of his miracles, probably because the other evangelists had so fully and particularly written concerning them.

[ocr errors]

Previous to his undertaking the task of writing his gospel, he caused a general fast to be kept by all the Asian churches, to implore the blessing of heaven on so great and momentuous an undertaking. When this was done, he set about the work, and compleated it in so excellent and sublime a manner, that the ancients generally compared him to an eagle's soaring aloft amongst the clouds, whither the weak eye of man was not able to follow him. “ Amongst all the evangelical writers,” says St. Basil,” “none are like St. John, the son of thunder, for the sublimity of his speech, and the height of his discourses, which are beyond any man's capacity fully to reach and comprehend." “ St. John, as a true son of thunder,” says Epiphanius, by a loftiness of speech peculiar to himself, “ acquaints us, as it were out of the clouds and dark recesses of wisdom, with the divine doctrine of the Son of God, the glorious Saviour of mankind.”

Thus we have given the character of the writings of this great apostle and evangelist, who as we have hinted before, was honoured with the endearing title of being the beloved disciple of the Son of God; and was a writer so sublime as to deserve, by way of eminence, the character of St. John the Divine.

THE LIFE OF ST. PAUL,

The Apostle to the Gentiles.
Tuis

cminent and laborious apostle was a native of Tarsus, and a descendant from the ancient stock of Abraham. He was born about two years before the blessed Jesus, and belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, the youngest son of Jacob, who thus prophecies of him. Benjamin shall raven as a wolf; in the morning he sho!!

« ÎnapoiContinuați »