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From Good Words.

ory. The early teachers of Christianity were as real persons as Pliny or Josephus.

ST. JOHN'S CONNECTION WITH CHRISTIAN We propose now to examine the history of



the days of St. John, and see whether a plain statement of facts does not strengthen the evidence for the divine origin of Christianity.

THE evidence for the truth of Christianity is intertwined with history. An imparWe do not propose to enter here on any tial history of Christianity affords ample critical question as to the date and authorevidence of its Divine mission, and no sec-ity of the books which from remote antiquiular histories of the early centuries can be ty have been attributed to St. John.* We complete without telling us how the Church merely take it for granted that such a perbegan, and how it so speedily mastered the son as St. John really lived, that some his empire. In these days, when many seek to torical materials for his biography exist, make their religion dependent on a criti- that he is the reputed author of some very cism which professes to rest on the decisions early books regarded as sacred by Chrisof an internal consciousness, often but an- tians; and we maintain that looking to other name for prejudices and unproved as- these books, and to the great influence of sumptions passing themselves off as immu- their reputed author, and the way in which table principles, it seems peculiarly neces- their teaching was spread throughout the sary not to think or speak lightly of the Roman Empire at the close of the first censtern evidence of facts; and no greater tury, it is as impossible, with due regard to service could be done in this age than thor- facts, to omit the records of St. Jo'in's life oughly to sift, for example, Gibbon's theory and teaching from the history of that time as to how Christianity arose, and to show as it would be to omit Justin Martyr from that it is a totally inadequate account of a the age which immediately follows, or Lord great historical phenomenon. You may Bacon or Raleigh from the age of James I. The matters here adduced can have no take the period from 100 to 160 after the birth of Christ, that is, from Trajan to the second Antonine.* This period is very close upon the time of the Apostles and our Lord, and it is impossible for any intelligent student of history to deny that at that early time the Church of Christ was very vigorous, that it was already spread throughout the whole civilised world, and that the history of it is mixed up with the most important events and personages of the Ro-ity, all that is here said is excellently given: man Empire. How did this come to pass what is here attempted is to connect the if the historical basis on which we believe narrative with its place in reference to it to rest, implying its divine origin, is unChristian evidence. real? Various attempts have been made of late years, from Gibbon to Renan, to explain how this could be, on the supposition that Christianity, as we understand the term, was an imposture; but a sound historical criticism pronounces these theories to be untenable. The question always recurs, Christianity was firmly rooted and widely spread by Trajan's time: how could this be if it was based on deceit, mistakes,

originality. We treat of what is known to all well-informed Christians; but attention needs to be recalled to what all ought to know. Among the many highly-prized works of the present Dean of Westminster, there is one which seems not to have attracted so much attention as it deserves, his "Sermons on the Apostolic Age." In these, and in Dean Milman's History of Christian

or dreams?

In the age preceding Trajan, that is, in the first century, it is granted that secular history comes less closely athwart the Church; yet here also a true and accurate history of the times must bring facts before us inexplicable upon any antichristian the

I endeavoured to treat of this period some years ago in an article in the North British Review, May, 1854, entitled "Christian Evidences and History."

The period of which we are now to treat is in church history called the age of St. John; for St. John lived so much longer than the other Apostles that he is justly regarded as having an age of his own, an age, that is, in which he was the chief Christian teacher, and in which the chief Christian writings, so far as we can judge from the specimens that have come down to us, were all more or less marked with the character attributed to St. John. As the

age which immediately succeeded the dispersion of the Apostles from Jerusalem, and during which the Gospel was first preached to the Gentiles, may be called the especial age of St. Paul, from the very

For a succinct examination of recent attacks on the authority of the Gospel of St. John, see Ebrard's "Gospel History," Div. II. ch. ii. § 125, accessible to English readers in Clark's Theological Library.

prominent part which he bore in it, and | tants of Ephesus. There was great learnfrom the fact that round him the history of ing and refinement there, and the subtle the church working amid the Gentiles at and inquiring spirit of Greek philosophy. that time revolves, and that his writings There the Roman proconsul held his seat were the only great Christian writings of for business, supported by the stern active that time; so this somewhat later age to power of his Roman soldiers; and there alwhich St. John survived is properly called so was fully represented that strange dreamy the age of St. John. It is marked as the spirit which pervades all the heathen reliage of St. John in church history as in com-gions of the East, and all eastern philosophy, from which sprang that system of the Gnostics which so much troubled the church in early times. Here then in Ephesus were Greek and Roman merchants and philosophers, and Roman soldiers, and vagrant astrolo

mon history it would be marked as the age of the emperors Domitian, Nerva, Trajan, of the historians Suetonius and Tacitus, of Pliny the Younger, of the poets Martial and Statius and Juvenal. All these men were contemporaries of the great Apostle.

There is good evidence that St. John was still living at Ephesus in extreme old age in the year 100 from the birth of Christ. About that time he died.

gers from the East.* The place also was famous for the claims which its inhabitants made to a knowledge of the arts of magic. The magical books which not long before St. Paul's eloquence had persuaded his Ephesian converts to burn, were valued at 50,000 pieces of silver. And besides all these heathens, there were very many Jews in this great city, attracted thither, as to so many other places, then as now, by their pursuits of commerce.

It will be well here to consider the state of the city in which he spent his latter years. Ephesus was the capital of what is called in the New Testament Asia, i.e., the Roman province in Asia Minor. It was an important commercial city. It was also the seat of a great heathen temple; and the nature of the worship there established well illustrates the mixture of western and eastern heathenism which was found in its population. The temple was a magnificent Grecian structure, and the name given to the idol was that of the Grecian goddess Artemis or Diana. But when the Greek or Roman worshipper entered the temple the statue at once must have struck him as very unlike the figure of that agile huntress, whom in his own land he was accustomed to adore under this name. We may see in the Louvre the elegant and airy statue there preserved of the Grecian huntress Diana. But the object of worship in the Ephesian temple was one of those rude masses of black stone, which, being probably a meteoric stone, was said to have come down from Jupiter. It was roughly hewn into the grotesque shape of a female with a thousand breasts, representing the prolific About the time of the rise of Christianity, power of nature which gives nutriment to Ephesus acquired fresh importance. all. It resembled one of the monster gods temple, indeed, which, after having been of Hindostan rather than the elegant fig- burned down on the day of the birth of ures which the Greeks, and from them the Alexander the Great, had taken 220 years Romans, worshipped. Such is the appear- to complete, was of earlier date; and had ance of the Ephesian idol of Diana, of long united in its magnificent structure the which small copies are still to be seen in works of the most accomplished architects, museums. There is one, for example, in sculptors, and painters of Greece. Its the Bourbon Museum at Naples. Now this Greek rulers under the Macedonian dynasty union of a Greek temple and European had done much to raise the place; but name with the grotesque figure like that under the Romans it became the chief city worshipped in the central parts of Asia, * Vide Milman's "History of Christianity," vol. ii. well illustrates the mixture of European PP. 27:28. and Asiatic heathenism amongst the inhabi-clop. Pliny, Nat. Hist., xxxvi. 21, cited in Biblical Cy

At the present day the city of Ephesus is a scene of utter desolation. The sea has retired from its harbour, leaving only a pestilential morass. Its buildings are now only heaps of scarcely distinguishable ruins. So that we can only guess where the haughty temple stood which was the wonder of the world. One heap of ruins is supposed to be the theatre, recalling to memory the conflict of St. Paul with the infuriated worshippers of the goddess. Another is supposed to mark the situation of the circus; and there are piles of stone supposed to be the remains of magnificent palaces erected there by the Roman conquerors. Its inhabitants now are a few Greek peasants living in extreme wretchedness, making their huts, some in the vaults of the ancient building, some in the sepulchres. But in the midst of all this desolation, there is still quite enough to show how great a city it once was.t


of all that part of Asia. And hence naturally in later Christian times it was the seat of a great bishopric, the Bishop of Ephesus being chief bishop of all the churches in the surrounding provinces.

love one another." The great length to which his life was prolonged probably gave rise to the expectation that he was to be rescued from the common lot of humanity, and live to the end of the world. The Lord's words, Its grandeur did not last beyond the spoken of him in his youth by the sea of fifth century of Christianity, for it was Tiberias, would often recur to his mind as already a ruinous place when the " Emperor he lived on year after year: "If I will that Justinian filled Constantinople with its he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" statues, and raised the Church of St. Sophia He would doubtless often mention them to on columns brought from Ephesus." But the young generation amidst which he linat the time St. John lived there, it was in gered, and hence an expectation naturally all its glory. And afterwards, as the got abroad that he should not die; and heathen temples lost their influence, Chris- when he heard of it, and found that those tian churches arose in their place, one de- unexplained words of his Lord were thus dicated to St. John himself, which is sup- exaggerated, and a superstitious sanctity posed to have stood close to the present thus attached to his prolonged old age, it Turkish Mosque. A tomb, also supposed was very natural for him to append, as he to be that of St. John, was long pointed out appears to have done very late in life, an within this church. It was in this city that additional chapter to his Gospel, viz., the St. John lived in his old age, and died: 21st, setting forth the real facts of this init was from Ephesus, such as we have de- terview which he had with Christ after his scribed it, that he superintended the resurrection, on which this common expectachurches of Asia. The common opinion is tion rested: alluding to the expectation disby no means improbable that he did not tinctly as he does in the twenty-third verse, leave Judæa till after the death of his and pointing out that Christ had not said to Lord's mother, who had been so tenderly him what was commonly supposed: Ver. 23: committed to his care on the day of the Cru-" Then went this saying abroad amongst the cifixion. "Behold thy mother. Woman, behold thy son." First St. Paul, and after him Timothy, were the earlier guides of the church of Ephesus. It was not till after they had left it that St. John there took up his permanent abode.

Now, let us recall the picture which has come down to us of the way in which he spent his time.

There are two great events in the history of the church which divide the first century. One is internal to the church, viz., the death of St. Paul, which happened in the year 65; the other external, viz., the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, which happened five years later, viz, in 70. It is after these events that St. John comes so prominently forward as the chief character in the Christian community.

St. John lived to a very advanced old age. There is something very touching in the familiar picture of the aged Apostle, still presiding over the churches at the close of the first century, when his bodily powers were fast failing, still daily appearing in the place of meeting, and, when his strength was not equal to a longer sermon, repeating over and over again to the men of the young generation, amidst whom he alone of the Apostles had survived, "Little children,

* Vide Clinton F. R.

brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? This is the disciple which testifieth these things, and wrote these things." Nearly seventy years had passed since the words thus recorded had been spoken to him; but the Apostle's recollection of the exact words was distinct, and he wished no exaggerated account of them to go abroad and increase unduly the veneration with which all naturally beheld him, as the chosen friend of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth.

The expectation, however, that John should never see death was not easily extinguished amongst the Christians. Even after the Ephesian brethren had borne him to the grave, they could scarcely persuade themselves that he was really gone, and the church left without an Apostle. They fondly said of him, "He is not dead, but sleepeth:" and they cast longing glances at his tomb in the expectation that he would rise from it. As their horror of the inhuman persecutor Nero would not allow the Christians to suppose that the news could be true that he was really dead; and an impression long prevailed that he had merely been carried away somewhere beyond the Eu

*Stanley's "Sermons on the Apostolic Age :" Traditions of St. John.

phrates, whence, in an evil day, he was yet | believed his life to have been. The followto return to enact the part of Antichrist, ing familiar story sets before us how he was and vex still further the church of God;* employed while his bodily vigour still lasted. so, on the other hand, the love and venera- Eusebius, quoting Clemen t of Alexandria, tion of Christians could hardly be persuaded tells how, in one of St. John's journeys, that St. John was really taken from them. while he was visiting the Asiatic congregaAnd long afterwards men persuaded them- tions, and when he had appointed a bishop selves that they could see the earth gently in a certain church, he observed a young heaving over his grave from the motion man, who listened to his earnest discourses, caused by his breath as he slept on peace- with whose appearance he was greatly fully. struck. The youth's fervid spirit seemed to But St. John was indeed dead, hard as correspond to the pleasing impression made the sorrowing church found it to realise its by his person and demeanour, and the Aposloss; and men might well weep and feel tle, turning to the newly-appointed bishop, desolate as they thought how much the con--who, in this place it may be mentioned, trol and example of his gentle yet most bold is also called presbyter, for the names are spirit was likely to be needed in the dark hardly as yet distinguished, enjoined him, days that were coming on. with great solemnity, not to neglect the The Apostle had not, however, in any ex- charge of this young man's soul. The perpectation that his life would be prolonged till son thus solemnly addressed did not fail at the Lord's second coming, neglected to make first to obey. He took the young man into provision for the church's more systematic his own house, instructed him, and prepare government by human means after the mi- him to be regularly admitted into the church raculous power of the Apostles should be by baptism. This duty, however, thus far withdrawn from it. There is good ground discharged, the appointed guardian somefor believing that St. John in his latter days what relaxed his watchfulness. The youth matured and fully established that system of fell into bad company; idleness led to exchurch government which has prevailed travagant living, extravagance to vice and throughout almost the whole of Christendom crime. He sank from bad to worse, till at ever since. Eusebius tells us, on the au- last, giving up all hopes of salvation, he thority of Clement of Alexandria, that plunged into utter recklessness, and became when St. John settled finally in Ephesus, chief of a band of robbers, perpetrating after his release from banishment, he was many deeds of violence and bloodshed. sent for to visit the neighbouring provinces, Time passed, and St. John returned to visit in some places to appoint bishops, in others the same church, and after he had deto arrange the whole plan and constitution spatched the other business for which he of the churches, in others to ordain proper came, he turned to the bishop and said, persons for the several offices of the minis-"Now restore me what I deposited in thy try. ‡ "If the origin of the order of bish- hands for safety." At first the bishop was ops," says Tertullian, be examined, it will confused, thinking that it was money which be found to have St. John for its author."§ the Apostle claimed from him. But the Days were fast coming when the church was Apostle explained, "It is the youth I claim to be left more than it had been since our of thee." Then the bishop, with some sighs Lord's birth to ordinary human government, and some tears, answered, "He is dead." and therefore the last Apostle was naturally" Dead!" said the apostle; "how, and by employed in maturing that human constitution, which we find fully established in all the churches by the middle of the second century.

Several anecdotes, it is well known, are found in the early writers, which bring before us a vivid picture of St. John's mode of life at Ephesus, or if there be doubt (though I know not why there should be) as to the historical accuracy of some of the incidents related, at least a vivid picture of what the men who lived immediately afterwards

* Vide Milman's "History of Christianity," vol.

ii. p 171, note.

Stanley's" Apostolic Age,"pp. 277, 278.
Euseb. Hist. Eccles., iii. 23.

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Tertul. adv. Marc., quoted by Stanley, p. 73.

what death?' "He is dead to God," he
answered. "He has given himself up to
wickedness, is ruined, and has become a
robber. He has left our church, and dwells
now in the mountains with men as wicked
as himself." When the Apostle heard these
words he rent his garment, and, striking his
forehead, groaned aloud.
"A worthy guar
dian truly," he exclaimed, "have I found
thee of thy brother's soul," and he called for
a horse and some one to guide him to the

taken prisoner by the advanced guard of
Instantly he set forth, and soon he was
the robber band. To their surprise he

Hist. Eccles., iii. 23.

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neither attempted escape nor offered any resistance, but declared the object of his coming to be that he might be led to the captain of their gang. A brief space sufficed to bring him face to face with the apostate. The robber chief was waiting in arms for the return of his comrades; but as soon as he recognised in the prisoner the venerable form of the saint, his hard recklessness gave way_to_shame, and he turned and fled. But St. John would not thus allow his convert to escape. Forgetting his old age, he hurried after him. My son," he exclaimed, "why do you flee from me who am your father, an old man and unarmed? Have pity upon me, my son, and fear not. Thou hast still hope of life. I will answer to Christ for thee. I will willingly die for thee, as Christ died for us. I will give my life if I may save thee. Stand! Trust me! Christ hath sent me!" When the robber heard these words, first he stood still, casting his eyes on the ground. Then he threw away his arms, and, trembling, burst into tears. He embraced his preserver, and, with much sobbing, sought pardon; as it were baptizing himself again by the floods of tears he shed, still concealing his right hand as unworthy to be touched for the blood it had shed. The Apostle solemnly assured him that he had obtained his pardon from our Saviour, and even kneeled down to beg him to return, embraced his right hand as now purified by his repentance, and brought him back to the church. There he offered many prayers for him, and continued earnest in fasting, and soothed his agitated mind by many words of comfort; and did not leave the place before he had re-established him as a member of the church, a notable instance of true repentance, and proof of the power of regeneration, a trophy of a visible resurrection. (It may be well to note here, in passing, that the word regenerate is used by Clement, contrary to its ordinary sense in ancient writers, for the return of a baptized sinner after he has fallen away, not for his first admission to the church.)

This incident, so well calculated to set before us the Apostle's mode of life and feeling in his latter days, must obviously have happened while he was still in the vigour of his green old age. It suits well with that spirit of ardent love with which St. John's name has ever been associated; for St. John's character, it has often been remarked, is not that merely of acquiescing, quiet, and retiring love. An ardent spirit is certainly shown in his early days by the

very name Boanerges, the Son of Thunder, which the Lord gave to him and to his brother, as well as by that outburst of too fierce zeal which called forth the Lord's reproof, "Ye know not what spirit ye are of," when the brethren would have called down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritan village, which refused to receive the company of the disciples journeying to the passover. † The violence of youth had now all passed, but the spirit was not less ardent.

The other well-known anecdote (preserved by Irenæus, who professes to derive it from St. John's own scholar Polycarp, Adv. Hær. iii. 3) is often quoted as showing how the Apostle of love still abhorred the wickedness which had striven even in these early days to adulterate the pure Gospel of Christ. The Apostle was going to the public bath in Ephesus; he found it occupied by a man whose name was too well known to him as a chief teacher of the heretics who so greatly opposed his influence. When he learned who was there, he fled from the place at once, as unwilling to be polluted by the presence of one who was the cause of so much corruption. This anecdote, it has been observed, is a curious illustration of the Second Epistle of St. John, ver. 10, 11-- "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds;" and of the severity also with which the second chapter of the Revelation denounces the doctrine and teaching of the Nicolaitan heretics, "which thing," says Christ, "I hate." The heretics of those days, it is to be noted, were not merely persons who held and taught erroneous doctrine in our sense of the word. had utterly polluted the Gospel of Christ by mixing it some with heathenism, some with a spurious sort of corrupted Judaism, and the teaching as well as practice of most of them is said to have given great encouragement to immorality. No wonder, then, that even the Apostle of love warmed in opposing them to the sternest indignation, knowing that they were actively engaged in the attempt utterly to subvert the pure Gospel of Christ.


There are other well-known floating an ecdotes preserved which seem to represent St. John as having been somewhat rigid in his own personal observance of the Jewish

• Mark iii. 17.

↑ Luke ix. 54.

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