Excerpt from Lectures and Sermons
As you probably know, St. John was the only one of the Apostles who died a natural death. All the others suffered martyrdom for their faith. It was given to the beloved disciple to live to great age, and when he was too old to walk his followers carried him about on a cot. His gospel, in those sunset years, was said to be very simple: Little children, love one an Into the word Love he pour ed all the riches of his faith and pi ety, his hope for the church and for the world.
With what profound insight Browning has interpreted the closing hours of St. John in A Death in the Desert, as though he had been one who stood beside his couch. Pur sued by the foes of his faith, St. John takes refuge in a cave in the desert, where his mortal hour comes upon him. As the end approaches, in rapt prophetic vision he foresees, with his bright dying eyes, all the subtle at tacks on the faith of Jesus, and dis arms them. The teaching of David Strauss, at whose touch all things turned to allegory; the unctuous and persuasive doubt of Renan, in which one hears always an echo of irony; these, and the ruder forms of denial, are all predicted. Let men deny what dogma they will, let them tear the gospel record into tatters, they do not so much as touch the basis of faith as Browning states it in that poem.
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