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in his name, among all nations, beginning at 48 Jerusalem.* And ye are witnesses of these
things. 49 And behold, I send the promise of my Fath
er upon you : but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until
be endued with power from on high. 50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany ;
and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.t 51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them,
he was parted from them, and carried up into 52 heaven. And they worshipped him, and re53 turned to Jerusalem with great joy : And
were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.
* Christ himself preached only to the Jews, and he directed his disciples also to devote their first labors in his cause, to instruct the Jewish nation. They accordingly spent several years of the beginning of their ministry in Judea.
+ Several verses here contain the same aceount as is given in the beginning of Acts, which were written by the same apostle.
PREFACE TO JOHN'S GOSPEL.
I'T is the opinion of all learned Christians, both ancient and modern, that St. John wrote his gospel after the other evangelists had published their narratives; and it is generally believed that it was several years later. Dr. Lardner indeed supposed it was written in the year 66, about two years after the other gospels were published. The general opinion, however, is against this supposition ; and that it was not written until 97, or 98, long after the destruction of Jerusalem, and near the close of the life of this apostle ; who, according to authentic ancient histories, died A. D. 99, or 100. The apostle John lived to a very great age; and, though several years younger than the other apostles and his Lord, was more than 90 when he died. It is said he was four or five years younger than Christ; which would make him of the age of 95, or 96. This apostle died a natural death, but he passed through many and great persecutions.
St. John appears to have possessed the peculiar confi. dence of his divine Master. It is believed he was nearly related to the family of the holy Virgin, the mother of our Lord. To the care and affections of this favorite disciple, she was commended by Christ, as he was expiring in agony on the cross. And we are informed, that he then took her to his own home. There was a tradition in the church in the second century, that she lived fifteen years after the death of our Savior.
The reason given by some writers for supposing that St. John did not compose his gospel unuil after the destruction of Jerusalem, is, that he makes no mention of Christ's predic. tions relative to the judgments coming upon that city and the nation of the Jews. But this is not a sufficient reason. For as the other evangelists hall spoken of this event, it was not necessary for him to record the predictions. And it is evident, that many things which the other evangelists have related, he has omitted to notice; being satisfied, no doubt, with the accuracy of the account which they had given.
It is probable, and such indead is the intimation in the writings of some of the early Christian fathers, that his ob ject, in penni.:; his gospel, was chiefly to record events and discourses omitted by the other evangelists. Accordingly he has given a history of many miracles of Christ which he performed in the early part of his public ministry, aol of addresses to his disciples and others both in the early and latter part of his public life, which we do not find narrated by either of the other writers of the evangelical history, He relates much of John the Baptist, his forerunner, not mentioned before; and he only has preserved an aceount of the conversation with Nicodemus, of curing the man born blind, as recorded in ix. chap. of the raising of Lazarus from the grave, who had been dead four days; and of the discourses contained in xiii. xiv. xv. xvi. and xyii. chapters of liis gospel.
Thes were material omissions; and to supply such defects was probably one great object with the apostle John in writing his gospel. Bat it is said, that he did not write until urged by other Christians, who were desirous to know every event in the life of the Messiah.
It is not unreasonable to suppose, that they had heard him speak of some of Christ's discourses, which were not related in the gospels then extant. According to the declaration of some early writers, the other gospels were shewn to this apostle; that he approved of them as correct, yet as not relating some events which he recollected; and that by the desire of his Christian friends, he wrote the gospel, which is the last, in the order of time, of all the evangelical narrations. He might, indeed, as many suppose, have it also in view to correct some erroneous opinions prevalent in his tine respecting the person of Christ. It is well known, that the Greeks were a philosophising people: and that many of their opinions and theories, as to invisible beings, were extremely fanciful. At an early period of the church,
some of the Greek philosophers became converts to the Christian faith ; and it was natural that they should wish to incorporate some of their own opinions with the doctrines of the gospel. It was also very humiliating to them to be told that the Founder of the religion they had adopted suffered an ignominious death, They were often reproached for believing in one as a diyine teacher, who had died on the cross. The doctrine
which grew out of these fancies and prejudices was, that Jesus Christ was man only in appearance, and that in reality the Savior did not suffer and expire on the cross; but only the man or human nature, to which he seemed to have been united. It was important such an error should receive an early check. And no one of the historians of Christ is so direct and explicit in their declarations, as John, that Jesus of Nazareth, who was the Messiah, or Christ, and in some peculiar sense the Son of God, was actually possessed of such a nature as man, and really inherited flesh and blood : see chap.i. 14. also 1 epistle of John iv. 3. This doctrine is indeed implied and suggested in the other gospels; but not so fully and plainly declared as we find it in the writings of St. Jobn. Irenæns, who lived towards the close of the second century, and was acquainted with one of the apostle John's pupils, says, “This disciple of Christ, willing to remove the error, alluded to above, “teaches that there is one God of infinite power, who by his word made all things, visible and invisible ; and that by the same word by which he finished the work of creatiov, he bestowed salvation upon those whom he made to inhabit the world he had created.” “This word," St John says, “was made flesh;” or dwelt in Jesus Christ, the Messiah ; "and we beheld bis glory, such as became the only begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth.” That is, not in worldly pomp and splendor, not displaying power for his own personal aggrandizement, but in all meekness, benevolence and boliness, and yet exercising supernatural power for the instruction and relief of mankind; thereby shewing that he had the divine spirit without mea sure, and was truly the image of the invisible God,
The phraseology used by this apostle in his gospel fur. pishes an argument, as some suppose, that it was not written and published in Judea. He frequently gives an explanation of the Hebrew terms he uses, as if they were not intelligible to those whom he addressed ; and he speaks of the Jews in a manner differently from that which would have been natural and proper, had he resided among them at the time of writing his gospel.
There is a great similarity between the language and sentiments of this apostle in his gospel and in his epistles. His writings discover an artless simplicity, and a spirit of affection, which render them particularly interesting. He has given us much of the affectionate and benevolent advice of Christ to the apostles, which displays the benignity of our Lord, in a most endearing and affecting view. It is he who has taught us how often our Savior enjoined benevolence and love on his disciples as a necessary and distinguishing characteristic of their real regard for hiin and his religion. The apostle John seems to have possessed much of this amiable and celestial spirit. In one of his epistles, he repeatedly gives tbe following exhortation ; Little children, love one another.” And there is a tradition, probably well founded, that when this apostle was very aged, and unable to deliver long discourses to the people, he was carried to the Christian assembly, in the city where he resided, and said, “My little children, love one another.” This was not addressed merely to the young. But the apostle being very aged, and considering them all as his children in a religious sense, spake to them in this affectionate manner.
The spirit of love and charity is certainly the distinguishi. ing trait in the Christian'character, as it is opposed to a worldly, selfish, and malevolent disposition. The first Chr
tians were remarkable for displaying this heavenly temper. Even the heathen philosophers and magistrates were compelled to do homage to the benign influence of the gospel by ex. claiming, "Behold, how these Christians love one another !'*
The Christian church is in possession of no authentic aca count of the journies of this apostle. We learn from the 15th chap, of Acts, that he was at Jerusalem with the other apostles and elders, at a council to decide upon
question then agitated in the church, whether the heathen converts should be required to observe the ceremonies of the Jewish law. There can be no doubt, that this apostle was engaged in the cause of his divine Master among his own countrymen in Judea, until a short time before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70.
We are indeed, informed by several early Christian writers, that St. John left Judea after the civil commotions began there, which issued in the complete overthrow of the Jewish nation: And that afterwards he resided in different parts of Greece in Asia, and chiefly at Ephesus. In the time of the Roman emperor, Domitian, who was a cruel persecutor of the Christians, the apostle was banished to the Island of Patmos, near the Grecian coast, where he was favored with the prophetic visions, which are preserved in the book of Revelations.