Yet still more beautiful, and almost as majestic, is the image of his namesake, that great Apostle, Evangelist, and Prophet of the Church, who came so early into our Lord's chosen company, and lived so long after all his fellows. We can contemplate him in his youth and in his venerable age; and on his whole life, from first to last, as his special gift, is marked purity. He is the virgin Apostle, who on that account was so dear to his Lord, "the disciple whom Jesus loved," who lay on His Bosom, who received His Mother from Him when upon the Cross, who had the vision of all the wonders which were to come to pass in the world to the end of time. "Greatly to be honoured," says the Church, "is blessed John, who on the Lord's Breast lay at supper, to whom, a virgin, did Christ on the Cross commit his Virgin Mother. He was chosen a virgin by the Lord, and was more beloved than the rest. The special prerogative of chastity had made him meet for his Lord's larger love, because, being chosen by Him a virgin, a virgin he remained unto the end." He it was who in his youth professed his readiness to drink Christ's chalice with Him; who wore away a long life as a desolate stranger in a foreign land; who was at length carried to Rome and plunged into the hot oil, and then was banished to a far island, till his days drew near their close.
O how impossible it is worthily to conceive of the sanctity of these two great servants of God, so different is their whole history, in their lives and in their deaths, yet agreeing together in their seclusion from the world, in their tranquillity, and in their all but sinlessness! Mortal sin had never touched them, and we may well believe that even from deliberate venial sin they were ever exempt; nay, that at particular seasons or on certain occasions they did not sin at all. The rebellion of the reason, the waywardness of the feelings, the disorder of the thoughts, the fever of passion, the treachery of the senses, these evils did the all-powerful grace of God subdue in them. They lived in a world of their own, uniform, serene, abiding; in visions of peace, in communion with heaven, in anticipation of glory; and, if they spoke to the world without, as preachers or as confessors, they spoke as from some sacred shrine, not mixing with men while they addressed them, as "a voice crying in the wilderness" or "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day". And therefore it is we speak of them rather as patterns of sanctity than of love, because love regards an external object, runs towards it and labours for it, whereas such Saints came so close to the Object of their love, they were granted so to receive Him into their breasts, and so to make themselves one with Him, that their hearts did not so much love heaven as were themselves a heaven, did not so much see light as were light; and they lived among men as those Angels in the old time, who came to the patriarchs and spake as though they were God, for God was in them, and spake by them. Thus these two were almost absorbed in the Godhead, living an angelical life, as far as man could lead one, so calm, so still, so raised above sorrow and fear, disappointment and regret, desire and aversion, as to be the most perfect images that earth has seen of the peace and immutability of God.