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Fohn, his parentage and occupation--called by Chrift
appointed an Apostle-saw the transfiguration forbad one casting out devils-proposed to consume the Samaritans-petitioned for the highoft place attended his Lord at the last poslover, in Gethsemane, and by the cross-the first who believed the resurrection laboured with Peter at Jerusalem, and in Samaria—banished to Patmos --preached and died at Ephefumbis Gospel Epiftles, and Revelations.
ALL the Apostles of Jesus, excepting the traitor, poffeffed a real excellence of character; yet in some of them we may trace a difference : a difference, probably, distinct from the influence of divine grace, arising from their natural tempers and conftitutions. They were all, but not equally, dear to their Master: fome obtained marks of his peculiar esteem. We prefume not to censure his conduct, or to demand the reasons on which he acts. He is the sovereign Lord, and has a right to bestow his favours, when and as he pleases. Three, out of the twelve, were honoured above the rest by his attention : and, of these three, one was admitted to a nearer intimacy, and a larger hare of his regard. This was he, whose hittory is now introduced to our notice, and who is so frequently described by that expression, “ the disciple, whom Jesus loved.” St. John, it is allowed, poffesied an uncommon sweetness of temper; and, perhaps, that strong affection, and close union which sub
sisted between him and his Lord, may be ascribed to the similarity of their dispositions. Certain it is, that in proportion as we cultivate the spirit of love, we shall enjoy a familiarity of intercourse with Chrift.
An imitation of this favoured Apostle will, likewise, bring credit to our profeffion of the Gospel, and add much to the peace and happiness of our own souls.
The followers of Jesus were chiefly such as obtained not any high distinction among men. He makes no account of the embellishments, which catch the notice and admiration of the world : he passes by many of the most elevated rank, and “ exalteth them of low degree.” The parentage of John was mean ; his fituation in life, obscure. His brother James and he were sons of Zebedee, a fisherman at Bethsaida in Galilee, and brought up to the fame occupation. These two were partners with Peter and Andrew in the concerns of their trade, and commenced their attendance upon the Saviour at the same time *. Being ftruck with amazement at the miraculous draught of fishes, which had been taken under the direction of Jesus, they were instantly disposed to ob y his call. At his word they forsook their father, their vessels, and employment: thence becoming his stated followers, they were prepared for the Apostleship, to which they were soon afterwards appointed. The fummons, pronounced by Christ, being accompanied to their hearts by the influence of his Spirit, prevented or removed every objection. Thus allo, in general, the people, who enter upon his service, are willing in the day of his power t” to undergo every difficulty for his fake. Let us pray with our Church, that, after this example, we may forsake all worldly and carnal affections, and be evermore ready to follow God's holy commandments through Jesus Christ our Lord I.
The two brothers, probably, resembled each other in disposition, and are so frequently mentioned toge
* Matt, iv. 21, 22. Luke v, 10, 11. + Pfal. cx. 3.
Collect for St. James the Apostle.
ther, that we shall find many of the same things related of them both. When ordained to the ApoftleThip, they were called by one name, “ Boanerges,
u fons of thunder *. The appellation, we prefame, does not imply that the manner of their address was terrific, which would be inconfiftent with the gentle and loving spirit of St. John, but it denotes, rather, the fervour of their zeal, and the efficacy of their preaching, which, like thunder, fhook' many hearts, and overcame the strongest opposition. O for men of this description, to stand forth as advocates for Chrift in the present age!
John is supposed to have been the youngest of the Apostles, and appointed to the sacred function, when he was not more than twenty-fix years old. It is truly desirable, to give up the heart to God, and be gin his work, in early life; that our best days and the vigour both of body and mind may be devoted to his service. How much mischief might thus be prevented, what extensive usefulness promoted !
St. John was one of the three honoured companions of Christ, who were admitted to behold him in his glory on the mount of transfiguration t. Probably, from that heavenly vision he was led with greater earnestness to contemplate and admire his divine Master, of whose dignity he had received such a transcendent proof. He recommended him, therefore, to the regard of others, from a clear knowledge of his person, and an attentive consideration of his excellency. Thus he writes, “ That 'which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life, declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us I.”
* Mar. iii. 17.
+ Matt. xvii. I.
f 1 John i. 1-3.
Yet even in John, though favoured with the most intimate communications of the Saviour, we perceive the depravity of human nature. He felt the conflict, arising from the flesh lufting against the Spirit, and discovered fome failings that we should not have expected in an Apostle, and especially in one so much distinguished for his meekness and love. What other conclusion can we draw, than this, “Let no man glory in men *}"
On a certain occasion, whilst Jesus inculcated hue mility, John seemed to be convinced of acting un. fuitably to this temper ; at least, he desired to know whether his conduct had been confiftent. He ob served, that he and some other of the disciples had seen a person casting out devils in the name of Christ, and forbidden him to profecute that service, merely because he belonged not to their company t. This, evidently, betrayed a narrownefs and bigotry of mind, which, therefore, met with a reproof. The admoni: tion, then delivered, teaches us, that thofe, who profess a real regard to, and dependence on, the Saviour, and who promote his cause, ought not to be rafhly cenLured or discouraged, though they affociate not with us, and though in some respects they differ from our sentiments. Alas! there are few, who possess that extensive liberality, which our religion calls for. Are we not all prone to condemn such as accord not exe actly with our fystem, and comply not with our forms, even where we are forced to acknowledge, that they obey the fame Master, and exert themselves for the fubversion of Satan's kingdom?
Upon our Lord's journey to Jerusalem, certain Sa. maritans refused to entertain him, through their hatred of the Jewish nation 1. John and his brother confidered this insolent treatment as deserving of the sea
# 1 Cor. iii. 21.
+ Mar. ix. 38–40. | Luke ix. 51-56.
Luke ixo 4950.
verest verest punishment, and proposed to call down upon the offenders fire from heaven, as Elijah had once done on a different occasion. Doubtless, they acted under the habitual influence of love to Christ and zeal for his name, yet at that time they were instigated by resentment and a warmth of passion, which cannot be justified. Jesus, therefore, very sharply rebuked their rashness and impetuosity, as inconsistent with the nature of his religion and the benevolent object of his miffion, " The Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." And shall his followers be furious and vindictive, or pursue their adverfaries with bitter execrations? Will any insults or inju. ries vindicate such a temper? Will you plead, under a vehemence of this fort, that you are actuated by a pure regard to God and his truth? Alas ! you deceive yourselves : 56
know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” Far different are the weapons, which you should use in contending against infidels and heretics. « The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God*.” O ftudy the genius of the Gospel, and the tendency of its principles ! Is not its main design to promote peace and salvation ? And has not the great Founder of your faith exhibited an aftonishing example of forgiveness and kindness to enemies How, then, does it appear, that you have learned Christ, while you burn with resentment and indignac tion?
The warmth of our , Apostle upon this occasion must be ascribed, in part at least, to his prejudice against the Samaritans, whom he had been taught to hate from his youth. He had often seen his Master insulted, and treated with greater contumely by the Scribes and Pharisees; and yet he had never expressed a with to call down fire upon them. So great is the force of education! Still, it must be allowed, the fu
* James i. 20.