Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

the marks by which they are known to be the epistle is so striking, that they have been almost sons of God (chap. iii.).

universally attributed to the same author. SECT. V. contains criteria by which to distin- 2. The doubts which were formerly entertained guish Antichrist and false Christians, with an ex- of their genuineness have been satisfactorily achortation to brotherly love (chap. iv.).

counted for; and their early reception among the

canonical books is shown from their citation by § i. A mark to know one sort of Antichrist—the Irenæus, who was a disciple of Polycarp and a

not confessing that Christ came in the flesh hearer of Papias, both of whom were disciples of (ver. 1-3).

the Evangelists. § ii. Criteria for distinguishing false Christians, viz.

3. Commentators are much divided respecting (1) Love of the world (ver. 4—6.)

the (2) Want of brotherly love (ver. 7–12).

person to whom the second epistle is addressed. (3) Denying Christ to be the true Son of God Some suppose it to have been written to an indivi(ver. 13-15)

dual; others, to some particular church. The iii. A recommendation of brotherly love, from former opinion seems the most likely, from the

the consideration of the love of God in giving whole tenor of the letter, and particularly from his Son for sinners (ver. 16–21).

ver. 12, 13.

4. Macknight, after Tertullian and other ancient Sect. VI. shows the connexion between faith writers

, thinks the second epistle was written to in Christ, regeneration, love to God and his chil- confuté the errors of Basilides, which were prodren, obedience to his commandments, and victory pagated by his followers in the latter end of the over the world; and that Jesus Christ is truly the

first century.

These false teachers affirmed that Son of God, able to save us, and to hear the Christ was a man in appearance only, conseprayers we make for ourselves and others (chap. quently that his death and sufferings were not real, v. 1-16).

but only in appearance. The conclusion, which is a summary of the pre

5. The third epistle was addressed to Gaius, or ceding treatise, shows that a sinful life is inconsis- Caius; but it is quite uncertain who this Christent with true Christianity, asserts the divinity of

tian was.

Its object was to recommend to his Christ, and cautions believers against idolatry notice and affectionate regard certain Christians, (ver. 17–21).

who were travelling to preach the gospel to the This is an outline of this admirable epistle, heathen ; and John addressed him in particular, which, being designed to promote right principles because his hospitality was already known. of doctrine and practical piety in conduct, abounds,

6. There is nothing contained in these epistles more than any book of the New Testament, with from which we can fix their dates with any cercriteria by which Christians may soberly examine tainty. This in a great measure depends on the themselves whether they be in the faith.*

date of the first epistle ; soon after which, it is generally agreed, both these were written : probably at Ephesus, over which church John is

thought to have presided. || SECTION VI.

THE SECOND AND THIRD EPISTLES OF JOIIN.

† This resemblance may be seen by comparing 2 Epist. 5

with 1 Epist. ii. 8; and ver. 6 with 1 Epist. v. 3; and ver. 7 1. These two epistles may be regarded as an

with 1 Epist. v. 5; and 3 Epist. 12 with John xix. 35. Or epitome of the first one, and contain

John's peculiar manner of expressing things, 2 Epist. 7 and little not very

Epist. 11 are examples. Eight verses out of the thirteen to be found in that. The similarity, both in style which the second epistle contains, may be found in the first, and in sentiment, between these and the first either in sense or in expression. See Mill, Prolegomena, No.

153, and Whitby's Preface.

See Lardner on the Canon, vol. iii., p. 622.

|| See Whitby, Michaelis, Macknight, and the commentators * Horne's Introduction, vol. iv., p. 432., 4th edition. generally,

[blocks in formation]

96 or 97,

1. The writer of this book affirms himself to time. For instance, the church at Ephesus is have been John, a servant of Jesus Christ, then in reproved for having left her “first love:" whereas the island of Patmos, for the word of God, and for the epistle addressed to them by Paul, in the year the testimony of Jesus; which will agree with no 61, commends their love and faith, chap. i. 15. other John, of whom we have any knowledge, There are also several expressions in the address except the evangelist; and accordingly, from this to the churches, which indicate their having been description of the writer, and also the similarity of exposed to persecution. But there was no persestyle which prevails between this and the acknow- cution of the Christians extending to the proledged writings of that apostle, it was universally vinces, till the reign of Domitian, whose death received as his inspired production in the primi- is related to have happened in September, A. D. tive church. It is expressly cited as such by 96. The Christian exiles were then liberated, and Justin Martyr, * Irenæus,t and Polycarp, in the John was permitted to return to Ephesus. As, second century; and is reasonably thought to have however, the emperor's decease, and the permission been known to Hermas and Papias still earlier, to return, could not be made known in Asia imfrom some modes of expression in their writings, mediately, some time must intervene before the which appear to be borrowed from it.|| Indeed, apostle could be at liberty either to write the as Sir Isaac Newton has remarked, there is no Apocalypse at Ephesus, or to send it by mesbook of the New Testament so strongly attested, sengers from Patmos. The

year

thereor commented upon so early, as the Apocalypse. fore, appears to be the most probable time to Independent of these testimonies, however, the which this book can be assigned. book itself furnishes the most indubitable evidence 3. Nor are the learned more agreed on the strucof its inspiration, in the numerous clear and cir- ture and machinery, and the design and object, cumstantial predictions with which it abounds, of this prophetic book. The principal hypotheses many of which have been subsequently fulfilled.

which have been advanced are five. 2. Concerning the time when this book was (1) That it is a prophetic and scenical exhibition written, critics are not agreed: indeed, they differ of what shall happen to the Christian church till so widely, that some make it one of the earliest, the end of the world.

Those who espouse this while others make it the last published book of opinion, lay down as a proposition, which comthe New Testament. Grotius, Sir Isaac Newton, prises the subject of the whole book, the contest Michaëlis, Bishop Newton, and Dr. Tilloch, of Christ with his enemies, and his final victory ascribe it to the reign of Claudius or Nero. Mill, and triumph over them. See 1 Cor. xv. 25; Matt. Lardner, Bengelius, Woodhouse, Horne, Town- xxiv.; Mark xiii. ; Luke xxi. But what is but send, and others, contend that it was written in briefly hinted in these Scriptures, is detailed at the reign of Domitian, A. D. 96 or 97. The large in the Apocalypse, and represented by latter opinion accords with the voice of Christian various images, and in regular order. antiquity, and alone agrees with the contents of

(2) That it contains a prophetic description of the book.

Thus the three first chapters describe the destruction of Jerusalem, of the Jewish war, the Asiatic churches as being in that advanced and and of the civil wars of the Romans. This is the flourishing state of society and discipline, and to theory of Wetstein, who divides the prophecy into have undergone those changes in their faith and two parts. (1) The first is contained in the morals, which could not have taken place until closed book, and concerns the earth and the third after they had been planted for a considerable part, i. e., Judea and the Jewish nation. (2) The

second part is contained in the open book, and

concerns many peoples, and nations, and tongues, Larduer, vol. i., p. 348, üi, p. 417.

and kings (chap. x. 11), i.e. the Roman empire. † Ibid, vol. i., p. 372.

(3) That it contains predictions of the persecuGill's Comment. Pref. Rev. and Woodhouse's Disser- tions of the Christians under the heathen emperors tation, prefixed to “The Apocalypse translated,” p. 36, &c. | See Woodhonse's Dissertation, p. 31, &c.

of Rome, and of the happy days of the church Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse.

See further, p. 235, ante

a

represented

under the Christian emperors, from Constantine emblematical book, it would be that of a river. downwards. This was the general opinion of the which ariseth at three heads in one mountain, Fathers.

and flows for a long space in three great streams (4) That it contains prophecies concerning the through diverse countries of the earth, but aftertyrannical and oppressive conduct of the Roman wards reunites at the same place, and continues pontiffs, the true Antichrist; and foretels the in one great channel to flow onward to the ocean. final destruction of popery. This opinion is But if I were called to say what form of compoadopted by the generality of Protestant writers. sition this book resembled the most, I would say

(5) On the other hand, the Roman Catholic the ancient drama, and that it was subdivided writers maintain that it is a prophetic declaration into four acts; the first setting forth, in several of the schism and heresies of Martin Luther, scenes, the progress of one subsidiary action ; those called Reformers, and their successors; and the second bringing forward the progress

of the final destruction of the Protestant religion. second action to the same point; the third, the This hypothesis has been illustrated and defended progress of a third action to the same point; yet at large, by Bishop Walmsley, in a work called connected and linked with one another, but not the History of the Church, under the feigned appearing together upon the stage till the fourth name of Signior Pastorini; in which he endea- act, which contains the triumph of the last of the vours to turn every thing against Luther and the three persons over the other two. And each of Protestants, which they interpreted of the Pope these acts hath its prologue, descriptive of its and popery; and attempts to show, from a com-contents and style of representation. And there putation of the Apocalyptical ‘numbers, that the are distinct notices of the changing of the acts ; total destruction of Protestantism in the world and, as in the ancient drama, there are choruses will take place in 1825 or 1828!

of saints and angels to interpret and apply the (6) Mr. Faber has supposed that much of the matter, with single voices to make it still more imagery of the Revelation is taken from the clear; which method is intricate (but its intriancient mysteries; and Eichhorn has

cacy

becomes its evidence in the explication of it as a drama. This opinion, somewhat modi- it) only because of the great mass of matter to fied, was espoused and defended by Mr. Irving, be briefly spoken. And yet I say not that it is a who observes, “The great object and main action drama, but that it resembles those ancient dramas, of the book, is to show the condition of the in which high poetry, divine morality, and myschurch under Daniel's fourth beast, from the tical theology were wont to be set forth in concert

. time that John wrote, or rather from the time for it is to be likened to other compositions only of the things that are recounted in the epistles for the sake of more clear conceptions, being in to the seven churches, down to the period at itself singular and unrivalled, the sublimest and which the saints should obtain the kingdom, most comprehensive of God's revelations." * with the judgments which came upon her ad- 4. Of these several hypotheses we must leave versaries during that long period, and the the reader to take his choice, referring him to those judgments by which she was put in possession writers who have with much learning and ability of the kingdom, and the blessedness of her discussed their respective merits. t

the general judgment and consummation of all signed to supply the place of that succession of things. And if this could have been done prophets, which demonstrated the continued proby one prophetic narration in regular order, I vidence of God to the Jewish and the patriarchal doubt not but that, being the simplest plan, would churches. The superiority of prophecy over have been chosen ; but as there were three dis- miracles, as an evidence of Christianity, has been tinct scenes of distinct actions, the western em- asserted by Bishop Warburton, and by many learned pire, and the eastern empire, and the church, with experiences altogether diverse, the three-fold division became necessary until the time when

* Babylon and Infidelity Foredoomed of God, vol. i., p. the saints possess the kingdom, after which it is

181, &c. The thread of the story is therefore threefold: when the one is followed out to the great mentary and Paraphrase on the Revelation ; Bengelius' Intro

+ See Mede's Key to the Apocalypse ; Lowman's Cod crisis, the prophecy goes back to bring up the duction to his Exposition of the Apocalypse, translated by second to the same point, then to bring up the Robertson ; Daubuz's Perpetual Commentary on the Rere third to the same point ; after which they all pro- lation of St. John; Woodhouse's Apocalypse translated ; ceed together.

Michaelis' Introduction, vol. iv., p. 518, &c. ; Horne's Introdoc If, therefore, I were to select an

tion, vol. iv., p. 474, &c. ; Townsend's Arrangement, vol, ü., emblem by which to represent the method of this . p. 616, &c.; and Tilloch's Dissertations.

one.

writers, as a continually increasing evidence. "The waters of the ambition and clashing passions of great peculiarity of the prophecies of the Old Testa- man.

We rejoice to anticipate the day when the ment, is their gradual development of the system of bondage of Rome, which would perpetuate the truth, as the world was able to bear it. The first intellectual and spiritual slavery of man, shall be prophecy of the seed of the woman, that is, of overthrown, and the day-spring of united knowsome one family of the descendants of Eve, was ledge and holiness bless the world.* less definite than those which predicted in their 6. We conclude these remarks with the followorder that he should descend from Abraham; ing very excellent canons of interpretation, profrom Isaac, rather than from Esau ; from Judah, posed by Dr. Woodhouse, who has himself aprather than from the other patriarchs; from David, plied them with great success to the exposition of and so on, till the annunciation of Malachi, that this sacred book. the Lord whom they sought should come while (1) Compare the language, and symbols, and the second temple was standing. Another pecu- predictions of the Apocalypse, with those of former liarity was, that the ancient prophets announced, revelations; and admit only such interpretation in very general terms, in the boldest and most as shall appear to have the sanction of this divine figurative language, various events which have authority. never yet taken place, relative to some more (2) Unless the language and symbols of the glorious state of the church, the punishment and Apocalypse should in particular passages direct, overthrow of its enemies, the final restoration or evidently require another mode of application, of the Jews, and the universal establishment of the predictions are to be applied to the progressive happiness and innocence among mankind. If church of Christ. we are justified in expecting a book of prophecy, (3) The kingdom, which is the subject of this in the place of a succession of prophets, in the prophetic book, is not a temporal but a spiritual Christian church, we may anticipate also the kingdom ; "not a kingdom of this world;" not clearer prediction of the same events, and their established by the means and apparatus of worldly gradual development.

pomp, not bearing the external ensigns of royalty, 5. The majority of commentators on the Apoca- but governing the inward man, by possession of lypse generally act on these principles of inter- the ruling principles: “The kingdom of God," pretation. They discover in this book certain says our Lord, “is within you,” Luke xvii. 21. predictions of events which were fulfilled soon The predictions relative to this kingdom, thereafter they were announced; they trace in the fore, are to be spiritually interpreted. Wars, conhistory of later years various coincidences, which quests, and revolutions, and vast extent and great so fully agree with various parts of the Apoca- political import, are not the object of the apocalypse, that they are justly entitled to consider lyptical prophecies-unless they appear to have them as the fulfilment of its prophecies; and by promoted or retarded in a considerable degree the thus tracing the one God of revelation, through real progress of the religion of Jesus Christ, whose the clouds of the dark ages, through the storms proper reign is in the hearts and consciences of of revolutions and wars, through the mighty con- his subjects. His reign is advanced when Chrisvulsions which at various periods have agitated tian principles—when faith, and righteousness, the world, their interpretations even when they and charity abound; it is retarded when ignoare most contradictory, when they venture to rance, impurity, idolatrous superstition, and speculate concerning the future, are founded on wickedness prevail. so much undoubted truth, that they have mate- (4) We are not to attempt the particular exrially confirmed the wavering faith of thousands. planation of those prophecies which remain to be Clouds and darkness must cover the brightness fulfilled.+ of the throne of God, till it shall please him to enable us to bear the brighter beams of his glory. In the mean time, we trace his footsteps in the * Townsend's Arrangement, vol. ii., pp. 646, 647. sea of the Gentile world, his path in the mighty + Translation of the Apocalypse, p. xii., &e.

R

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »