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probably, thought that he ought to have had the first place in authority; for we read that his mother, the wife of Zebedee, came with her two sons, asking that her two sons might sit, the one on our LORD's right hand, and the other on His left in His kingdom. Again, St. Paul says, “ love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed
Now this we find in St. John; so much so, that although he was the most favoured and exalted of all the children of Adam, by being " the disciple whom Jesus loved," yet no word of presumption ever escaped his lips. He makes, indeed, no professions, no promises of love and fidelity. Whereas, even the zealous and faithful St. Peter seems to have done this : three times did he declare, that although all men should deny his Lord, yet he never would do so : presuming, as it would seem, too much on his own strength, and thereby putting himself in some degree before the other disciples; to which our Lord seems to allude, when afterwards, in His kind reproof, He said unto him, “ lovest thou ME more than these?” Whereas St. John, on this point, especially exemplified his own account of true love,
my little children,” he says, “ let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
At the same time, St. John also showed another proof of Divine love which St. Paul mentions, “ love is not easily provoked”-“ beareth all things.” When the wicked traitor with his company came to lay violent hands on the holy LAMB of God; this was, indeed, to the disciples a great trial of patience; for it would have been far more easy to have endured violence and insult offered to oneself than to so holy and meek a Master; and St. Peter drew his sword in His defence. But St. John, in the greatness of his Divine love, perceived that CHRIST was the Almighty Power of God, who by one rough word could have overwhelmed His enemies in destruction; and, therefore, he was not "provoked," nor behaved himself “unseemly," or in a manner unbecoming so Divine a Master, but observed, pro. bably, at the time, that which he mentions in his Gospel as a proof of Divine power, that when our Lord spoke the word, “I am He," " they fell to the ground.” And thus “ he endured,” in JESUS CHRIST “ seeing Him that is invisible.” And then, ågain, we behold in him throughout that love which
“ endureth all things, beareth all things,' or, as it might be translated, " is proof against all things," and that, too, "not in word, or in tongue, but in deed and in truth :” so quiet, so unpretending, that the world might have never heard of his fidelity but for an almost accidental mention of it: by which we find that in the hall of Caiaphas, when St. Peter was so overwhelmed with fear as to deny his Lord, yet St. John, also, was present throughout; and yet " endured all things." And then, again, at the foot of the Cross, regardless of all the mockery and insults of the soldiers, we find St. John supporting our Lord's afflicted mother : surely, never was there set so strongly before all the world a picture of that which St. Paul describes as the first mark of genuine love, “Charity suffereth long and is kind." And here did he receive that which to Divine love would be the greatest of earthly rewards ; for as he had left his own relations to follow Christ, he had committed to his charge by CHRIST HIMSELF His own mother, the most “ blessed among women.” Surely, we may well suppose that no home was ever so holy, so much the resort of blessed angels, as that in which the holy mother and the beloved disciple dwelt together. This was love which was "proof against all things ;" which was not tempted by the highest privileges and honours, nor by the greatest calamities and provocations, to “behave" itself “ unseemly.” For the love of God is the only foundation for true humility, so as not to be "puffed up;" and the only foundation for true courage, so as to “ bear all things.”
And again, St. Paul says, “love believeth all things, hopeth all things :" and where shall we find a more remarkable instance of this than in St. John at our Lord's Resurrection ? Our LORD did not manifest Himself to the beloved disciple, because he needed no manifestation; but when he saw the empty grave and the clothes wrapped up with no signs of haste, he at once believed; and thereby obtained that greater blessing of which our LORD spake when He said, “ blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.” Thus throughout in the heavenly calmness of St. John's character, in the hall of Caiaphas, at the foot of the Cross, and at the grave of Christ, do we see before our eyes in a human example that charity which “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." Here we may observe
an explanation of his own words when he says, “perfect love casteth out fear;" for where can we find one more perfectly fearless in all things than this Divine Apostle ? how did he act up to our LORD's words, “ fear not them which kill the body, and after that have no more than they can do."
But still this love of St. John was accompanied with a very great fear of God, whom our LORD so strongly commanded to fear above all things. “Fear Him," He repeated, "yea, I say unto you, fear Him." And it is written, « blessed is the man that feareth always.” Thus when our LORD showed Himself to them after His Resurrection, at the lake of Gennesareth, and ate with them, they were so filled with awful reverence at His presence, that it is said, “ no one of them dared to ask Him, Who art Thou? knowing that it was the Lord.” And when St. John gives the account of our Lord appearing to him in the book of Revelation, he says,
“ And when I saw Him, 'I fell at His feet as dead.”
And yet, notwithstanding this holy fear, he so longed for Christ's coming, that when our LORD said, “ surely I come quickly:" he ventured to add, -no doubt from the depth of his heart,"even so, come, LORD JESUS !” And not in word but in deed did he evince this, when he showed himself willing to die as a martyr, and was saved, it is said, by a miracle. And- desirous as he was to meet his LORD,—when he was exposed on a desert island, for the testimony of Jesus Christ, he was suffering more for the truth's sake than he would have done by immediate death.
Again, other proofs of this Divine love, such as St. Paul describes, may be found not only in the actions, but also in the writings of the beloved disciple. Thus it is said, charity “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth ?" This is ever seen in this Apostle, “I rejoiced greatly,” he says, " that I found of thy children walking in truth :” and in another letter," "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” It may be fully seen that nothing in this world so much gladdened his heart as to know of men walking in the truth. And so also is the other part of the sentence equally fulfilled in St. John, that charity, “rejoices not in iniquity," i.e. is pained and grieved at it, and hates it; for that is not true love which does not hate ini: quity. Thus we find that no one more strongly inveighs against all maintainers of false doctrine ; thus “ if any man come unto you,” he says, “ and bring not this doctrine" of CHRIST, “receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.” And of Diotrephes, “who loved to have the pre-eminence," he said, that in coming he would remember his deeds. Nor has any Evangelist left on record so clear and full account of the wickedness of Judas Iscariot as the disciple of Divine love. It is also, we know, reported of him, that when he heard that a heretic was in the place where he was, he immediately rushed out with horror and dismay. And now all these circumstances of holy zeal, which we find in St. John's character, will explain to us what St. Paul means by that expression, charity “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth."
In short, this holy Apostle, from the greatness of his love, seemed to be already walking in heaven, his conversation was in heaven. When we love any one very much, and our thoughts are ever with him, and in the place where he is, we seem to be almost there ourselves : for our minds are already there. Where our treasure is, there will our hearts be. And thus, like faithful Abraham, he seemed to be indifferent to all earthly things, and to walk above earth: and like that other" man of loves,” in the Old Testament, the prophet Daniel, it was given him to see deeply into the things of heaven and the things of futurity. These three holy men, Abraham, Daniel, and St. John, God made in an especial manner His friends, and imparted unto them His secrets. “Henceforth I call you not servants, but I call you friends, for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth.”
And therefore it is that when St. John speaks, it is like a voice speaking from Heaven,—there is no beautiful composition, few human incidents, or engaging parables, but it is like a heavenly voice ever speaking of Divine love. He seems to forget earthly things; and when he speaks of Christ he speaks not, as others, of the Son of Man, but of the Son of God;—not of the helpless child at Bethlehem, nor of the agonies of the Son of Man in the garden of Gethsemane, but of things heavenly and Divine, of the true Light, and of Him in Whom is life; of the Bread that came down from Heaven; and the living Water, and Him Who is Himself the Resurrection. He uses these words to express our
Lord's unspeakable and hidden Godhead : it was with him as with St. Paul, when he says, “though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet henceforth know we Him no more,”-"old things are passed away—behold, all things are become new.”
To conclude, from these observations on St. John it is evident that when our Lord enjoins this great commandment, of loving God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, He does not command uş more than we are able to perform, and more than others have attained to. And if others have done so-if St. John has fulfilled this great law of charity--then we also are able to do so : for we know that the beloved disciple was not thus perfected by his own strength, but entirely by the Grace of God enabling him both to will and to do. And God is “ no respecter of persons,” He will give the same grace to any one of us, who will take the same pains that he did to obtain it. We may be sure that St. John had the same temptations to struggle with that we have, the same evil dispositions to overcome; and he did overcome, and was more than Conqueror through Him that loved him. It might have been otherwise—he might have neglected the means of grace : we may well believe that he might have fallen off more and more, until he had betrayed his LORD, like the traitor Judas. And, indeed, the traitor might, if he had chosen, have attained unto this Divine love which St. John had, if he had made the same use of the same opportunities. It has been supposed by some great writers of old, that it was only latterly that Judas became so lost to all amendment; that he had been once good and faithful, and on the way to become highly esteemed as a disciple of Christ. And it may be observed, that the Psalmist speaks of him in the person of Christ, as familiar friend whom I trusted." · We took sweet counsel together, and walked in the house of God as friends ;” but “ he left off to behave himself wisely, and to do good:” and oh! how altered did he become in a short time; he who had been lifted up to Heaven, became the child of the devil, and chose his
portion of misery with evil spirits, instead of being the most favoured of God's children.
Would that we were as wise in judging of our own condition as we are in judging of that of others, that we would but see in our own case that folly which we see in the case of others !
" mine own