صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

gospel and epistles; first, that be not only affirms the truth which he means to establish, but denies the contrary, for example, I John ii. 4, He who saith I have known him, and kcepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him: secondly, that to express things emphatically, he frequently uses the pronoun this, as this is the condemnation, this is the promise, this is life eternal, &c. 3. The most exact resemblance of style and sentiment may be traced between the two last epistles and the first; it is even asserted by Dr. Whitby, that out of the thirteen verses of which the second epistle is composed, no fewer than eight are to be found, at least, in substance in the first. 4. A very antient tradition in the church has ascribed the two latter epistles, as well as the former, to the apostle John. 5. The only grounds on which this opinion appears to have been controverted are these, that being very short, they have not been much quoted by very antient writers; that, being directed to particular individuals, it was some time before they became generally circulated; aud that John, speaking of himself as an elder, it has been imagined by some that he was a different person from the apostle. Of the weakness of the last mentioned supposition, it is unnecessary to say more than that Peter exhorts as an elder, and Paul as such an one as Paul the aged. On the whole, therefore, it appears, that it was on the best and most solid grounds that these three epistles have been received as the divine word, and, as such, publicly read for the edification of the churches.

In the first epistle, the leading design of John appears to be to demonstrate the vanity of that superficial and mistaken faith which does not produce obedience, to excite a spirit of Christian affection, and to arm his readers against the snares and efforts of antichrist. In conformity with these designs, he first testifies the boliness and mercy which are exhibited in Christ Jesus to all that truly repent. [i. I to the end.] Then he urges the propitiation and intercession of Christ, as arguments to obedience, brotherly love, and victory over the world. [ch. ii. 1..17.] He proceeds to forewarn them of the many antichrists who were springing up in the world, directing them to the best preservatives against their ensnaring doctrines. [verse 18.28,] He then discourses of those exalted privileges to which the children of God are entitled, and, urges the necessity of holiness both in heart and life, to prove that we are in that blessed number. [verse 29, iii. 10.] He employs the remainder of the third chapter in the enforcing of brotherly love, as an essential characteristic of the Christian, In the fourth, [verse 1..12. he cautions them particularly against deceivers, and instructs them in what manner to distinguish between truth and falsehood. At length, drawing near to & conclusion, he declares his general design to be the confirmation of their faith ; reminds them of the ground they had to hope that their prayers would be heard both for themselves and others, who had not sinned unpardonably; and closes the whole with. a reflection on the happy difference between those that know God, and an ignorant and ungodly world. [verse 13 to the end.]

The Cerinthians, Ebionites, and other heretics who early disturbed the church, are supposed to have given occasion to this epistle. Where, or when it was written, and to whom it was addressed, is extremely uncertain. As probable an opinion as any seems to be that of Dr. Macknight, that it was published in Judea for the benefit of the Jewish Christians, a little before the destruction of their capital city.

An almost endless. variety of opinions have been formed concerning the antichrist here mentioned. He appears to be the same with the man of sin characterized by Paul in his second epistle to the Thessalonians, and described in terms which apply literally to the excesses of papal power. Grotius maintains that Caligula was antichrist; others have affirmed the same of Nero; but the date of those emperors' eigns does not agree with his appearance at the end of the world. A favourite idea.

[ocr errors]

among the Catholics has been, that he is to be a Jew of the tribe of Dan; and the whole history of his reign, wars, vices, doctrine, miracles, persecutions, and death, has been written by a Spanish jesuit. Hippolitus and others held that the devil himself was the true antichrist, and would become incarnate in human shape before the consummation of all things. Lastly, Oliver Cromwell, in the seventeenth century, and Napolean Buonaparte, in the present, have found writers desirous of exalting thein to this bad eminence.


Of the time of writing the second and third epistles of John, nothing, as Lardner observes, can be said with certainty. It is not unlikely that they were written between the years eighty and ninety, when John might very fitly take the distinguishing epithet of the elder or aged apostle.

Some have supposed that the person to whom the second epistle is addressed ought not to be called the elect Lady, but that one of these words being left untranslated, the passage should be read the Lady Eclecta, or the Elect Kuria. It is thought to have been written to confute the error of Basilades and his followers, who affirmed that Christ was not a man in reality, but only in appearance.

The third epistle is addressed to one Gaius, or Caius, a christian eminent for hospitality; but whether the same as is mentioned by Paul in his epistle to the Romans is uncertain. A principal design of its being written was to oppose the practices of one Diotrephes, who was fond of distinction in the church, and unfriendly to Christian strangers.

[ocr errors]

The authority of the Apocalypse, or book of the Revelations of St. John, appears to have been universally admitted during the two first centuries, though it was questioned in the beginning of the third, in consequence of a mistaken opinion that it encouraged the expectation of the temporal reign of Christ on the earth. It was evidently written in the island of Patmos, whither John appears to have been banished for his adherence to the cause of his Master. Its date is generally fixed to the year ninety-six ; but others place it earlier, even before the destruction of Jerusalem. It may be divided into three parts: the first, which is contained in the first chapter, gives an account of a vision of our Lord, which John saw while engaged in the devotions of the Lord's day. The second part contains the epistles of Christ to the seven churches in Asia. [chap, ii. and iii.] The third part, which occupies the remainder of the book, describes the condition of the church in succeeding times. This commences with a sublime description of the deity enthroned in glory, surrounded with saints and angels, and proceeds to represent a sealed book of God's decrees, which none could open but the Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ. The opening of these seven seals makes the first period which is described at length in the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters. The second period is that of the trumpets, which are given to seven angels, and six of them sounded, each of their blasts being followed by the most awful consequences. [ch. viii.] The third period is introduced by the measuring the temple, the vision of a woman clothed with the sun and opposed by a dragon, the vision of two savage beasts which should make great desolation among the saints of God, that of an angel flying through the midst of heaven with the everlasting gospel in his hand, and several other mystical representations: The seven angels then pour out their seven vials full of the wrath, of God upon his enemies in earth, and Babylon is at length declared to have sunk beneath his vengeance. [chap. xiii. to xix] The fourth period represents the flou fishing state of the church during the space of a thousand years. [chap. xx. 1..6;] In the fifth period, Satan makes a fresh, but unsuccessful attempt for the establiskneat of his kingdom: [verse 7.. 10.] The sixth period represents the universal judgment. [verse 11 to the end. And the seventh describes the happiness of the saints of

[ocr errors]


God. [chap. xxi. xxii.] It is scarcely necessary to observe, that no book of the New Testament has been so variously interpreted.

The history of John after his return from banishment is thus recorded by Eusebius, in the third book of his Ecclesiastical History.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

"At this time, there remained alive in Asia that same apostle and evangelist, John. whom Jesus loved; and, having returned from his banishment to the island after the death of Domitian, he again governed the churches. That he yet remained alive, is proved by the testimony of two very credible witnesses, both of them zealous defenders of the orthodox faith, namely, Ireneus and Clement of Alexandria. The former of whom, in his second book against heresies, writes thus word for word: "All the presbyters who were acquainted in Asia with John, the disciple of our Lord, testify that John delivered it to them; for he remained with them until the time of Trajan." And in the third book, upon the same subject, he manifests the same thing in these words "Moreover, the church at Ephesus was founded indeed by Paul, but John, continuing among them until Trajan's time, was a faithful witucss of the apostolic traditions." Clement, also, having pointed out the time, adds also a history very necessary for them who like to hear good and profitable things, it is in that book which he has written under the title who that rich man is that shall be saved. Let us therefore take his book, and read the story, which is thus, Hear a fable, and not a fable; but a true story, which is related concerning John the apostle, and delivered unto us and kept in remembrance. For when, after the tyrant was dead, he had returned from the island of Patmos to Ephesus, being requested so to do, he departed for the neighbouring countries, in some places ordaining bishops, in others regulating whole churches, and in others again choosing into the clergy those who were pointed out by the Spirit. When he had come to a certain city not far distaut, and of which some have related the name, (the author of the Chronicon Alexandrinum calls the name of this city Smyrna,) and, niureover, having refreshed the brethren, seeing a very young man, of goodly stature of body, comely countenance, and lively disposition, he looked stedfastly upon him whom he had ordained bishop, and said, I commit him to thee with all diligence, in the presence of the church and, of Christ, as witness. And when he had received him, and promised that he would perform all things, John, having again charged him with these things, and taken him to witness, afterwards returned to Ephesus. The presbyter, having received him, took home the young man who had been delivered to him, brought him up under due restraint, cherished him as his own, and, at length, enlightened, i. e. baptized him; but after that, he relaxed something of his great care and watchfulness over him, because he had placed upon him, as it were, the perfect and secure seal of the Lord. But he, having received his liberty too early, became corrupted by certain idle and dissolute young men abandoned to all evil, who, being his equals, associated themselves with him, invited him to sumptuous entertainments, afterward engaged him to go with them by night to rob and stop travellers, and, at length, allured him to still greater villany. He became gradually accustomed to crimes; and, on account of the violence of his spirit, like a strong and ungovernable horse, flies from the right way, and, furiously champing the bit, hastens to precipitate himself into an abyss of ruin. At last, rejecting the salvation of God, he determined nothing less with himself than to commit some enormous crime; for, having now become desperate, he scorned to suffer the common punishment of other thieves. Taking, therefore, his accomplices, and forming them into a troop of robbers, he readily became their leader, being the most violent, bloody, and cruel of them all. In the mean time, on some necessary occasion, the Christians of that city sent for John. He, after that he had set in order those things on account.

[ocr errors]


of which he had come, said, O bishop, restore to us that charge which I, and indeed Christ, committed unto thee, in the presence of that church over which thou art ordained. He, truly, was at first astonished, supposing that he was falsely accused of money which he had not received; yet, while he could not believe himself to have had those things which he had not received, so neither could he dare entirely to disbelieve John, But when John had said, I demand the young man, and the soul of our brother, the elder, groaning deeply, and also weeping, replied, He is dead. How? and what kind of death? To God, said he, he is dead; for he proved wicked and completely abandoned, and, at length, became a thief; and now, instead of continuing in the church, he hath betaken himself to the mountain with a troop of armed men. The apostle then rent his garments, and exclaimed with a bitter lamentation, I have left a good keeper of his brother's soul! but furnish me with a horse and a guide for the way. So he hastened immediately out of the church; and, coming to the place, is taken by the watch which the thieves had set, when he neither flies, nor endeavours to avoid them; but cries out with a loud voice, I am come for this purpose, bring me to your captain. The captain, armed as he was, for awhile stood still; but as soon as he knew that it was John who was approaching, being filled with shame, he betook himself to flight. But the apostle vigorously pursued him, forgetful of his age, and exclaimed, Why dost thou flee from me? shall a son flee from his father, an unarmed old man? Pity me, my son; do not fear; thou hast yet hopeof eternal life. I will intercede with Christ for thee; if it were necessary, I would readily undergo death for thy sake, as Christ hath died for us. I will pay my soul for thine; stand still; believe me; Christ hath sent me. Hearing these things, the young man at first stood motionless, looking on the ground, then threw away his weapons, and, at length, trembled and wept bitterly. Embracing the old man, who came to him, he apologized for himself with groans as well as he could, and became baptized a second time with his tears, all but his right band, which he continued to conceal. The apostle, promising and swearing that he would obtain for him the remission of his sins from our Saviour, having kneeled down and kissed his right hand, now purified by repentance, brought him back into the church again. Then, making intercession for him with frequent prayers, agonizing with him in continual fastings, composing his mind with comfortable passages, he did not leave him, as they say, before he had established him in the church, thus giving a great example of true repentance, an illustrious proof of regeneration, and a trophy of a blessed resurrection." There are several other stories related concerning John, which do not seem to have been so well authenticated as the preceding. Thus he is reported to have turned pieces of wood and stone into gold, in order to satisfy the avarice of some, who, having renounced their riches for the sake of the Christian religion, afterwards repented of their choice; to have been placed in a vessel of boiling oil without being scalded; and to have drank poison without receiving any pernicious effect. He died, according to Jerome, in the third year of Trajan, in the hundredth year of his age, according to the opinion of Lampe, and just at the end of the first century. His name has constantly been held in the most profound veneration, for the simplicity, love, and meekness, which equally distinguished his character and his writings.



The Virgin Mary-Peter-review of his two epistles-his preaching at Rome-his martyrdom-Andrew-his martyrdom-James the Elder-Philip the apostle-Bartholo mew-Thomas-his preaching and martyrdom-spurious writings attributed to him--James the Less-review of his epistle-account of his death-Jude—his epistle—the pretended embassy to Abgurus, king of Edessa-Simon Zelotes, or the Canaanite-Matthias-badges of the apostles-Philip the Deacon-Nicanor-Timon-ParmenasNicholas Barnabas-Apollos-Timothy-observation on his second epistle_Titus— remarks on the epistle directed to him-character of the Cretans-Philemon-Onesimus -Limus-Clement-Hermas-Dionysius the Areopagite-conclusion.


N the prosecution of our present undertaking, a considerable variety of objects has passed before us in review. Our first employment was to trace the blessed sun of righteousness from the earliest dawning of his light, till, having arrived at his meridian splendour, a cloud received him from the sight of mortals, and he ascended to dispense the blessings of his rays upon the inhabitants of a world to us unseen, though not entirely unknown. We then beheld the eternal spirit descend like tongues of cloven flame, rest on the heads of the disciples, and communicate to them that rich abundance of divine instruction which enabled them to shine in their generation like stars in the firmament of heaven. The most distinguished, though the last called of these holy men, was Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles. Throughout that portion of his life which elapsed between his conversion and his death, he appears superior to most of the weaknesses of human nature; and, having fixed his view steadily on the advancement of his Redeemer's kingdom, regretted no labour or suffering which was necessary for the attainment of this purpose. The celebrity of the four evangelists, especially of the three former, is derived not so much from the excellencies of their own characters, as from the exalted dignity of that Saviour whose history they have recorded. There now remains a number of venerable persons concerning whose lives we possess but scanty information, yet whom it would be unjust to pass over in silence. Such are Mary, the mother of our Lord, the remainder of the twelve apostles, the seven deacons, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, and several others to whose labours the Gentile world is greatly indebted. Of these we shall proceed to speak in their order.

Of the Virgin Mary nothing further is known with certainty than what is recorded in the New Testament. From that most authentic source, we learn that she was a

« السابقةمتابعة »