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to thee?" This answer caused a saying to go abroad that John should not die; but we shall presently see what was the probable meaning of our Saviour's prophetic words.
In the book of Acts, we again meet with John in company with Peter, when the lame man was healed at the Beautiful Gate. This act of mercy and divine power occasioned their imprisonment. They were brought together before the council of priests and scribes; they were both charged to teach no more in the name of Jesus; they both nobly refused to obey; and they were both dismissed by the council, who were afraid at that time to punish them. It is pleasing to see those who had formerly been partners in a lowly, but honest calling, thus continuing to toil hand in hand, in their more exalted profession of fishers of men. It is an exhibition of Christian friendship, which should not pass unnoticed. On one other occasion they were united in their holy labors; when they were sent by the apostles on the mission to Samaria; after which we hear no more of John in the historical portion of the Scriptures.
All early testimonies agree, however, that he was spared to a great age, and outlived all the apostles; earnestly occupied, while his strength
remained, in the service of his Master and the promotion of his religion. It is said by some writers, that he preached to the Parthians; and it is certain that he dwelt for some time at Ephesus, where Mary his adopted mother, whom he had constantly taken care of, according to the solemn testament of her own son, is supposed by some to have ended her days. It is more probable, however, as expressly stated by Eusebius, that she died before John left Judea, about fifteen years after the Ascension of Jesus.
In the year of our Lord, 70, and when John was about seventy years of age, the destruction of Jerusalem, by Titus, took place. It is understood by commentators generally, that it was this event to which Jesus referred, when he intimated that John should tarry till his coming. If so, the prediction was remarkably fulfilled; for this disciple was the only one of the twelve who lived to see that once proud city utterly overthrown, her glorious temple destroyed, and the very ground on which it stood, ploughed up by the hands of the heathen.
Between the years 90 and 100, and in the reign of the emperor Domitian, he was banished to the Isle of Patmos, in the Egean Sea. Here he wrote the book of the Revelation; and here
he remained till the death of Domitian, whose successor, Nerva, recalled those who had been banished for their faith in the preceding reign. He then returned to Ephesus, where he is said to have written his Gospel, and where he died a natural and peaceful death, at the extreme old age of one hundred years. According to Epiphanius, he died at the age of ninety-four, in the one hundredth year of the Christian era; a calculation which makes him six years younger than our Lord. But others say that he lived to the age which was first mentioned; and others again assert that his life was protracted beyond that term. All agree, however, that he was more than ninety at his death. He was spared to bear the longest, as his brother James was called to bear the earliest witness, of all the apostles, to the truth of Christ.*
He left several writings behind him, which have been preserved in the church from age to age, and which of themselves bear witness to the affectionate mildness of his character. His
* So respectable a writer as Chrysostom asserts, in one of his sermons, that John was an hundred years old when he wrote his Gospel, and that he lived twenty years afterwards. But this is worthy of but little credit. Again, many of the ancients entertained the notion that this apostle never died, but was translated like Enoch and Elias.
Gospel was written after the three others; which accounts for its omitting many things which they relate, and relating many things which they omit. It is John alone who tells us of the resurrection of Lazarus; of Christ's washing his disciples' feet; and especially of those divine discourses which he held with them just before he was betrayed, and which were treasured up in the faithful memory and kindred heart of the beloved disciple, with a minuteness which proves how deeply he had been impressed by them.
The book of the Revelation, which antiquity also ascribes to John, though not with an entirely unanimous voice, has both exercised and baffled as much critical ingenuity and research as ever were bestowed on any writing in the world. The majority of its interpreters have regarded it as a series of particular prophecies; and these supposed prophecies have been applied to so many events, past and to come, that the reader is at last convinced that the truth does not even lie between the differing hypotheses. It may be, that its splendid visions are really of a prophetic nature, and that they are not yet accomplished. But perhaps the most rational theory is that which several learned men have adopted, and which supposes that the whole book of the Reve
lation is a general prediction, in the form of a religious drama, of the glorious success of Christianity in the world, and its triumph over its numerous foes, without any reference to the political condition of certain states and empires, or to the downfall of particular hierarchies or heresies. This opinion has been explained and supported by the German professor, Eichorn, in a commentary on the Revelation; and in earlier times had been maintained by able expositors, and espoused by no less a man than the poet Milton, who thus speaks in his Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty. "And the Apocalypse of St. John is the majestic image of a high and stately tragedy, shutting up and intermingling her solemn scenes and acts with a sevenfold chorus of hallelujahs and harping symphonies; and this my opinion, the grave authority of Pareus, commenting that book, is sufficient to confirm." But whatever difference there may be concerning the intention of this book, there can be none with regard to its composition. It is undoubtedly a magnificent specimen of holy poetry; and reminds us more constantly and strongly of the sublimest of the Jewish prophecies, than any other book in the canon of the New Testament.