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"Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself
being the chief corner-stone."
SOMETHING ABOUT THE APOSTLE JOHN.
BY THE REV. JAMES CULROSS, A.M., D.D.
V.-AFTER THE ASCENSION. Tre notices of John in the New Testament history, after the ascension, are few and scanty. He was one of those who continued in prayer and supplication in the upper room till the day of Pentecost; he shared in the mighty quickening of that day; he was associated with the apostle Peter in the healing of the lame man at the gate of the temple and the incidents that followed; when Samaria received the word of God, he was sent thither, along with the same apostle, to visit the converts, and impart spiritual gifts to them. From this period he is not seen in any outward movement recorded in the history. When Paul and Barnabas came to Jerusalem to confer with the apostles respecting the obligation of the Mosaic law, he is indeed recognised as one of the “pillars," but he does not take part in the “much disputing” that arose on the question, nor does he give forth his sentence as Peter and James do. On Paul's last visit to Jerusalem, “ James and all the elders” are named, but there is silence as to John. When Church parties were formed, and one said, I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos, and another, I am of Cephas, and another, I am of Christ, we find no hint of any party calling itself after John's name. The fact would seem to be that he took but small share in outward movements, and appeared but seldom in the general eye. None the less profound and widereaching, however, would his influence be, that it was exerted so
not inform us.
At what time he finally quitted Jerusalem, the New Testament does
Most probably it was soon after the death of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and before the troubles which resulted in the destruction of the city. There seems no reason to doubt the tradition which reports him to have transferred his home to Ephesus, though perhaps after an intermediate sojourn somewhere else. No city in the world, not even Rome itself, could have formed a better centre at that time whence his apostolic influence should go forth. * It had
* Pliny calls it the “ lumen Asice.”
been the scene of the most fruitful of Paul's labours. The gospel had taken deep root in it. It was the real metropolis of Asia Minor
. It stood in connection with all the great thoroughfares of the world
, east and west, north and south. It lay just in the great current of life. Asia and all the realms towards the rising sun, Egypt and Libya and Cyrene, the Mediterranean with all its isles and shores, Greece and all Europe,-placed in Ephesus, the apostle, as with the mightysounding trumpet of God, could summon them all, and invite them to Christ.
There were two tendencies in this region threatening the corruption of the gospel,—one already near its utmost vigour, the other incipient On the one side there was Pharisaic legalism, asserting that unles men kept the law of Moses, they could not be saved ; on the other side there was the germ of gnosticism, which, depreciating faith, attempted a speculative solution of all theological problems, and at once fascinated and bewildered many a splendid intellect. The one tendency threatened to turn Christianity into little else than" baptized Judaism "; the other, to make Jesus Christ merely the central phantom in a system of wild, misty dreams. The crowning work of John was to declare, in words as wonderful for their childlike simpleness as for their depth and power, what he had seen and heard of “that Eternal Life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us. The rich and powerful Christian life of the next century in that region witnesses to the fulness with which he accomplished his work.
In the course of his residence here, he was banished for a time to Patmos, a small, bleak, " disconsolate" islet in the Egean sea, of no note but for its connection with the apostle. It is less than twenty miles in circumference, and its population is not over a thousand
. It may have been a little greener centuries ago : its Middle Age name, Palmosa, indicates the presence of palm-trees at some it is now rugged and barren, and, with the exception of a few olives and cypresses, there is little or nothing to relieve the look of desolation which it wears.
On a small scale, it was a kind of local state prison during the reign of Domitian, like the Bass Rock in the days of the Scottish Covenanters ; and here John was confined “for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." cribes it : “Silent lay the little island before me in the morning tư. light. Here and there an olive breaks the monotony of the rocky waste. The sea was still as the grave; Patmos reposed in it like.. dead saint. John-that is the thought of the island. The island be
Its stones preach of him, and it banishment took place ; it may possibly have been as early as the close of Nero's reign, but more probably in the time of Domitiar long is it since the revelation was seen, but almost in our own gene (81-96). The testimony of Irenæus is clear and unhesitating: "Not ration, about the end of Domitian's reign ;"* and on the whole the
* The suggestion that as Domitian was one of the names of Nero, Irenæus me! have referred to him, will not bear serious consideration.
A visitor thus de
preponderance of external evidence is on the same side,-only obscure and later testimonies being in favour of the reign of Nero.
While exiled in Patmos, John beheld the visions which he afterwards recorded in the book of Revelation. Being in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, he heard a great voice, as of a trumpet, talking with him; and turning round, he saw the glorified Redeemer, appearing as in the prophetic vision of Daniel by the side of the great river Hiddekel ; " and when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.” With the touch of His right hand He restored strength to His servant, and bade him write what he now saw, and the visions which were about to be unfolded to him, sending his book to the seven churches of Asia. I take it that a copy of the Apocalypse was sent to each of these churches, and with each copy a short epistle to the particular church, the whole being collected in the second and third chapters. As our waking thoughts are the stuff out of which our dreams are fashioned, so the imagery of these visions has for its base partly the apostle's own experiences and memories, and partly the temple services at Jerusalem, the history of his nation, and the writings of ancient prophets. The Apocalypse is the one prophetic book of the New Testament. Its design is to inspire the Christian church with hope and courage and patience, by indicating her future course, through calm and storm, onwards to the glorious appearing of the Lord and the final victory over all hostile powers, when His saved people shall enter on untroubled and eternal joy. The central figure is that of the once suffering and now glorified Christ,—who governs history, who is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, by whom and for whom are all things. It is not a book for the mere arithmetician, far less for the fortune-teller ; but as truly a book for the devout and spiritually-minded theologian as is the epistle to the Romans. Bengel has well called it "a book of the cross; and, almost as well, Herder speaks of it as containing “manna for all hearts and all ages, and as " a book of instruction and comfort for all churches in which Christ walks." It differs greatly from the other writings of John, both in style, tone of mind, and stand-point ;-80 greatly indeed that many will not allow that it can be by the same author.* The difference is not simply that between youth and age,-between an untrained imagination and the calm and softened light of maturity,--but of another kind. The difference seems to me to spring in part from the difference of subject : in
ne case the serene and holy manifestation of the Eternal Life ; in the other case the throne, the Lamb, the powers of darkness, the conflict, judgment and plague and woe, and all the mingled events that take place onward to the establishment of the New Jerusalem. In part also from the difference of mental mood : in one case the aged apostle telling calmly forth, as to his little children, what he had held in sacred remembrance for a long life-time; in the
case the son of thunder rapt into ecstasy. Thus are the two I am not satisfied that there were two Johns known to the early ehurch, the apostle and the presbyter. The proof seems to me to break down at a critical point.
poles of his nature exhibited; otherwise there would be incomplete ness in the use made of him. And if there are differences, there are also deep, subtle, and peculiar harmonies, which can only be accounted for by identity of authorship. It is as if one and the same voice should sing at one time a wild battle-ode, and by-and-by a low, sweet song of home love, that looks into immortality, like the Land of the leal." I only add here, that even the doubting school has come generally to allow the apostolic origin of the Revelation, endorsing the view that “hardly one book of the New Testament has such a list of historical witnesses marked by name on its behalf.” We pass
onwards to the close of the first Christian century. The aged apostle, the last survivor of those who had seen the Lord, has returned to Ephesus. The earthly Jerusalem bas perished almost s generation ago. The terrible days of Nero have become a distant memory. The mild sway of Nerva has given peace to the church. The splendid dawn of Trajan's reign has begun, himself just and clement
, though determined to uphold the majesty of Roman law and religion
. The gospel of Jesus Christ has laid extensive and powerful hold upon, all the great centres of intelligence and influence round the shores of the Mediterranean. Not long after, the younger Pliny writes from Bithynia, what was probably true of all the western parts of Asia Minor, that “this contagious superstition,” as he regards it, confined to the cities, but had spread its infection among the country villages," and at one time "the temples were almost deserted." Though from the outset Christianity was a religio illicita (an unallowed religion) and lay under the “ ban of outlawry,” yet for a time its obscurity was its protection; but now and for ages to come it was to be tried in the fire, by a series of persecutions fierce and almost uninterrupted, aiming at its extermination. At the same time dangers were rising within the church, through the spirit of presumptuous speculation which loosened itself from conscience and reality
, and which, out of Oriental fancies, Greek philosophy, and gospel history, fashioned systems as fantastic, shifting, and unsubstantial as the cloud scenery at sunset. In these circumstances the saintly apostle, full of years, and ripe in experience and wisdom, wrote his epistles and gospel—the last and richest treasure of sacred literature. He does not in these writings attack error as exhibits the positive truth, in the presence of which error expirex
a controversialist, but rather The central thought, ruling all he says, is that of the Word made flesh, “ the Eternal Life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us.” In his Gospel, he exhibits “the Son of the Father" coming forth out of His eternity, passing through this mortal life, and again entering is not a mere supplement to the other gospels, filling in vacant spaces into that glory which He had with the Father before the world was. * It nor a polemical treatise directed against incipient or manifested here sies; but the "testimony" of one whom Jesus loved, who "leaned
* Hence he is called John the Divine, i.e. not the theologian, but one who spoko and wrote of the Divinity of the Lord.
1 His bosom" and who “ beheld His glory.” It records the chiefest His miracles, the longest and profoundest of His discourses, and lat unfathomable prayer which preceded Gethsemane.* To the mere gician it is one of the most obscure and perplexing writings that an be taken up; to the little child and the child-hearted saint it is one of the easiest and most delightful. One has called it “ the heart of Christ;" another," the gospel of the Spirit;" another says, “It is vritten by the hand of an angel ;” another, “It is the chief of the ospels, and one can understand it only by reclining on the bosom of esus ;” and another, “It stands out from the other three as the Sabyath among the days of the week, as the office of the priesthood among he functions of the sons of Levi, or like the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim, which was better than the vintage of Abiezer.” Everything in it is designed to glorify Christ to us, and to enable us to lift up our thoughts of Him to the very highest elevation--that we might believe in Him as the Son of God, and that believing we might have life through His name. Very striking are the words of Matthias Claudius: "I love best of all to read in St. John. There is in him something so perfectly wonderful—dusk and night and the quick lightning throbbing through them; the soft clouds of evening, and behind the mass the big full moon bodily ; something so sad, so high, 80 full of presage, that one can never weary of it! In reading John, it always seems to me that I see him before me, reclining at the Last Supper on the bosom of the Lord, as if his angel held the light for me, and at certain parts would place his arm around me, and whisper something in my ear. I am far from understanding all I read, yet often John's idea seems to hover before me in the distance; and even when I look into a place that is entirely dark, I have a pre-sension of a great, glorious meaning, which I shall some day understand, and hence I catch so eagerly at every new exposition of the gospel of John." The closing period of the apostle's life is seen through a haze of traditions, possessing less or more of verisimilitude, which I reserve for separate notice. We are ignorant of the time and circumstances of his death. Conjecture ranges from A.D. 89 to A.D. 120. It does not appear that he .*. It has been objected that John could not possibly have retained these discourses in his memory, in such minuteness and fulness, for so many years. The true answer to this objection is the Lord's promise of the Spirit, to bring all things to remembrance . Subsidiary to this, however, there are various considerations that deserve to
as e. g. (1.) Where writing is little used, the wonderful strength that memory attains. (2.) There is nothing incredible or even unlikely in the supposition of John's
having used memoranda. (3.) John did not, any more than the other evangelists, act as å mere verbal reporter, but reproduced the sense livingly. (4.) The very length of time that elapsed, filled up as it was in telling of Jesus again and again, in thought and contemplation, and in deepening experience, would render it not more difficult but more easy to give his full and final testimony. Any one may find analogies within his own knowledge. I remember listening to a series of lectures on language upwards of twenty-five years ago, of which I could give a better report to-day than
at the time of hearing.