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ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST,
Q. WHAT have you to observe in regard to the Evangelist St. John ?
A. St. John was a Galilean,' the son of Zebedee and Salome, younger brother to St. James, with whom he was brought up in the trade of fishing, and with whom he was called to be a disciple and an apostle of our Saviour. He is thought to be far the youngest of all the apostles, being thirty years old when he was first called to that dignity. As he died about an hundred years old, in the third year of Trajan, he must have lived above seventy years after our Saviour's sufferings, and consequently must have been very young when called to the apostleship.
Q. What have you to remark concerning the epistle and gospel for the day?
A. The epistle and gospel for this day, are both taken out of the writings of St. John. The epistle contains St. John's testimony of Christ, and the gospel declares Christ's testimony of St. John. The gospel seems applicable to the day itself; the epistle to the day, being attendant upon the preceding more solemn festival of Christmas.
Q. What new name did St. John receive from our Saviour ?
Å. He and his brother James were styled by Christ, Boanerges, that is, the Sons of Thunder. This surname is thought more especially to be attributed to St. John, because he so clearly taught the divinity of Jesus Christ, and delivered the mysteries of the Gospel in a more sublime and profound strain than the other evangelists.
Q. What particular marks did St. John receive of our Saviour's regard ?
A. He was one of the three disciples whom our Saviour admitted to the more private transactions of his life: he was the disciple whom, it is said, Jesus loved; who lay in his posoin at the paschal supper; and to whom, as his dearest friend, our Lord, when he was leaving the world, committed the care of the blessed Mary his mother.
i Matt. iv 91
; Mark ii. 17.
Q. What may we learn from the particular attachment which our Saviour discovered for this apostle ?
A. From the particular attachment of Christ to the apostle St. John, we may learn, that the virtue of friendship is not incompatible with the most sincere and ardent love to mankind; since the blessed Jesus himself, whose soul was infamed by divine benevolence and charity, distinguished particular persons by peculiar marks of affection.
Q. In what manner did St. John express his sensibility to the particular affection which Christ manifested for him?
Ā. Animated by lively affection for his blessed Master, this disciple quickly resented the affront which the Samaritans cast on the Saviour. That he might have a nearer enjoyment of his blessed Lord, he expressed a desire to sit on his right hand, in his kingdom of glory. Although, when Christ was appreh nded, he fled with the rest of the disciples, his affections soon overcame the suggestions of base and selfish fear. He boldly entered the high priest's hall, where his Master was arraigned; he resolutely followed the Saviour through the several degrading stages of his unjust trial and condemnation ; even in the dark and dismaying hour of the crucifixion, affection hurried him to the cross, to- witness and to cheer the last moments of his suffering Master; and receiving, as the dying and affectionate legacy of his Lord, the blessed Mary the mother of Jesus, he took her to his own home, and ever treated her with dutiful and honourable regard.
Q. Where did St. John exercise his apostolic office ?
A. St. John exercised his apostolic office in the East, principally in Asia,' where he founded the churches of Smyrna, Pergamus, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea. His chief place of residence was Ephesus; of which church, after the death of Timothy the bishop, he took charge towards the close of his life.
Q. What treatment did St. John receive from the emperor Domitian?
A. At the command of the emperor Domitian, to whom he had been represented as an impious subverter of the religion of the empire, St. John was sent, by the procunsul of Asia, bound to Rome; where he was cast into a caldron of oil set on fire, from the consuming fury of which he was rescued by the power of that same God who preserved the three Hebrew captives in the flames of a burning furnace. He was then banished, by the order of Domitian, into the island of Patmos, in the Archipelago; where he remained several years, instructing the inhabitants in the Christian faith, until recalled from banishment by the emperor Nerva. He then settled at Ephesus, where, about the cominencement of the reign of Trajan, he died, being an hundred
k Euseb. lib. iii. c. 1.
Q. How does it appear that St. John wrote the gospel that goes under his name?
A. The gospel itself describes the author of it under such. characters as belong peculiarly to St. John; as, that he was a disciple of our Lord, and that disciple whom Jesus loved, and of whom the fame went abroad among the brethren, that he should not die." The primitive fathers, Irenæus of Lyons, Clemens of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, &c. ascribe this gospel to St. John, and speak of it as being universally received in the Church as an inspired book.
Q. At what time, and upon what occasion, did St. John write his gospel ?
A. St. John wrote his gospel aster his return to Ephesus, with a view to correct the early heresies of those times, particularly those of Ebion, Cerinthus, &c. who began to deny that Christ had any existence before his incarnation; and also with a view to supply those passages of the evangelical history which the other sacred writers had omitted. He accordingly insists principally upon that part of the life of Christ between the commencing of his ministry and the death of John the Baptist ; and as he is very copious upon the sublime and mysterious subject of the incarnation, he was much extolled by the primitive fathers as an elevated and spiritual writer, and was honoured with the eminent and distinguishing title of the Divine.
Q. To whom did St. John address his epistles, and what are the subjects of them?
A. The first epistle of St. John is styled catholic, calculated for all times and places as well as persons; the other iwo are addressed to particular persons. They contain most excellent rules for the regulation of the Christian life, and particularly insist upon the important and sublime virtue of Christian love, which indeed constitutes the favourite anc animating topic of St. John's writings.
m John xxi. 20, 21, 22, &c.
1 Tertul, de Præf. Hær. c. 36.
Q. When did he write his Revelation ?
A. He wrote his Revelation while confined in the island of Patmos.
Q. What may we learn from the observation of this festival?
A. St. John returned the affection of his Lord and Master, by steady adherence to him under his dangers and adversities. Hence we may learn, that sincere love for the Saviour should lead us to bear his cross, as well as to partake of his glories; to accompany him in the sufferings and agonies of the cross on Calvary, as well as to rejoice in the manifestation of his celestial glory on mount Tabor. Sincerity, constancy, and ardour in friendship, are also sanctioned and enforced by the example of our Saviour and his beloved apostle; and if we would enjoy the exalted affection of the blessed Redeemer, we must cherish, through divine grace, those dispositions of meekness, gentleness, and love, which in a high degree animated this apostle, and rendered him worthy of the affection of his blessed Master. In the writings of St. John we behold enforced the divinity of the Saviour, and the exalted importance and obligation of Christian charity.
Q. Wherein consists Christian charity, or the love of our neighbour ?
Ă. The love of our neighbour consists in rendering him all kind and tender offices. If he be virtuous, it will make us esteem him; if he be honest, but weak in judgment, it will excite our sympathy and attention to him; if he be wicked, it will excite us to endeavour to reclaim him. The love of our neighbour will lead us to rejoice with him in prosperity, to succour him in adversity, to conceal his defects when no good purpose can be answered by divulging them, and zealously to vindicate his reputation when unjustly attacked. This virtue will lead us to be affable, candid, courteous, and
respectful in the intercourse of life; slow to unger, long suffering, and merciful.
Q. In what sense may this commandment, to love our neighbour, be styled a new commandment ?
A. This commandment is, by our Lord and his apostles, so much enlarged as to the object of it, being extended to all mankind; so greatly advanced as to the degree of it, even to laying down our lives for one another; so effectually
aught and encouraged, so strongly urged and enforced, that 1 may very well be styled a new commandment. Neither in he Jewish law, nor in Heathen ethics, is this duty raised to :he elevated rank which it holds in the Christian system.
Q. What are the obligations of this duty?
A. Without the exercise of mutual kindness and love, here can be no pleasure or advantage in the intercourse of society. The best expression of our love to God, is the love of man, who is the creature of God, who bears his image, and who is the object of his continual favour and regard. This duty is enjoined on us, by the particular command and animating example of Christ; by whom it is made the disinguishing badge of the Christian profession, and who insticuted the holy communion, to be a bond of love and unity among
his followers. The primitive Christians were so eminent for this virtue, that it became the current remark of the Heathen-Behold how these Christians love one another!
Q. What are the characteristics of Christian charity ?
Ă. Christian charity should be universal, extending to all mankind; it should be sincere, solid, and substantial, leading is to unwearied exertions to advance the temporal and spiritzal happiness of our fellow-men.
THE HOLY INNOCENTS,
Q. WHAT festival does the church celebrate this day?
A. The Church this day celebrates the martyrdom of the Joly Innocents, who suffered for Christ, and glorified God "у their deaths“; it having been the sense of the Church that hey died ihe death of martyrs, though incapable of making he choice ; God having supplied the defects of the will, by is own acceptance of the suffering.
Q. What have you to observe in regard to the epistle and gospei for the day?