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The Catholic Epistles.
In passing to the catholic epistles, we find St. Peter speaking in the same style : of “salvation ready to be revealed in the last time;" * and again, of “ the grace to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”+ He speaks, too, of the “ appearing of the chief Shepherd,” when his faithful ministers shall “receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." His language, also, in his Second Epistle, to which we have already had occasion to refer, is much to be remarked :
“ For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty." I
That is, evidently, of that majesty in which the Lord Jesus will appear at his second coming.
: “ For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son,”—“ This is my Son, the beloved in whom I am well pleased: and this voice, which came from heaven, we heard when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy."
Or rather, “ And so we have the word of prophecy more confirmed.” The prophetical word respecting the
• Chap. i. 5.
+ Ver. 13.
1 Chap. i. 16.
second advent was made more firm by the transfiguration: it was a specimen of that glorious era.
“ Whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the daystar arise in your hearts. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation :" Is not to be interpreted apart by itself, but in connexion with the general scheme of prophecy..
“ For prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
What the Holy Ghost, therefore, has said by one prophet, must be compared with what he has said by another, in order to understand the prophecies of the Redeemer's coming. Here we must look for the true context, rather than to the particular circumstances of the individual prophet and his times; a method which I trust has been carefully pursued in the present investigation.
St. Peter, too, clearly repeats the prophecies of our Lord, and of St. Paul, and of marty of the more ancient prophecies respecting the abounding of false Christs and false prophets as a sign of Christ's second coming, of the great apostasy, and of the character of those last days when the Son of Man shall be revealed. For, as we have often seen, the consummation of wickedness and irreligion among the professed churches of Christ, at the eve of the second advent, is much in view of the Prophetic Spirit throughout the whole series of the divine oracles. As
· See Macknight's note.
St. Jude tells us, in a prophecy very similar to this of St. Peter, “ Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these;" and so, as we have seen, did Moses, and David, and Isaiah, and all the prophets.
“ But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction."
St. Peter has before him the same “ mystery of iniquity,” which St. Paul speaks of; he sees it beginning to work, and marks what will be its end, an absolute denial of that Master, who, according to the common profession of the whole Christian world, bought them with his death, to be "a peculiar people to himself.” But when this corruption shall have attained its utmost pitch, then cometh that swift destruction predicted, as we collect from former prophecies, by the sudden appearance of the Master whom they have denied, from heaven with his mighty angels.
But, as former prophecies told us, great would be the extent of the evil before the judgment burst upon them.
2. “ And many shall follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom the
way of truth shall be evil spoken of.”
Hence, it is evident, that the characters here portrayed are not professed deists or infidels; they retain so much of the form of godliness that they are confounded with those that profess the Christian religion, for they evidently bring a scandal upon that religion :
3. “And through covetousness shall they, with feigned words, make merchandize of you."
I fear the explanation which Dr. Macknight has given of these words is too true to be denied : “ In this single sentence there is a clear prediction of the iniquitous practices of those great merchants of souls, the Romish clergy, who have rated all crimes, even the most atrocious, at a fixed price: so that if their doctrine be true, whoever pays the price may commit the crime without hazarding his salvation."
Supposing that gain is godliness,” another apostle has made the characteristic of the antichristian apostate, and wherever sacred things are bartered for money, or for worldly honour - wherever religion is made a trade of, and the stewards of the mysteries of God take the charge of the flock“ for filthy lucre's sake,” there is the spirit of Antichrist. It is upon the Christian nations, full of these abuses, that the day of the Lord comes, " whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not,”or, " to whom the punishment, threatened of old, lingereth not, and their damnation,”—or,"destruction, slumbereth not.” God, the apostle proceeds to tell us, who spared not the fallen angels --- who spared not the antediluvian world - who spared not Sodom and Gomorrah,
' Covetousness is early marked clergy from receiving the bequests in history as the besetting sin and of women; a modification more prevailing temptation that led to discreditable than any general law the apostasy of the Christian priest- could have been : and several of hood. “ Passing rapidly from a the fathers severely reprobate the condition of distress and persecu prevailing avidity of their contion to the summit of prosperity, temporaries.". the church degenerated as rapidly from her ancient purity :".
• Hallam's View of the State velousness, especially, became al of Europe during the Middle Ages, inost a characteristic vice. Valen
vol. ii. p. 1. tinian I., in 370, prohibited the
will not spare these corrupters of the faith, and wicked professors of the Gospel, and their judgment will be as signal and as tremendous.
In the tenth verse these destined victims are again designated :
“ But, chiefly," or, “especially, them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities."
Does not this seem to point out the special character of that particular time when Christ shall appear? How the abject superstition of the papacy could have led to this spirit of rebellion, which would brook no restraint, and cast off all respect for their constituted rulers, and to God's appointed ministers of justice, might appear difficult to explain. Our forefathers, however, pointed out this spirit in the Papists, whenever the powers of the state opposed their peculiar interest : but, doubtless, we are to take in view the general state of apostate Christendom, in that falling away, when the “
man of sin” is revealed. This state of things may not arise exactly at his bidding. As himself is a government, of course it would not: but this would become the character of that Christendom that he had perverted from Christ; and over which, refractory as it might become, he would retain considerable influence to the last. And I cannot but think this spirit (prognostic of the last day) is already gone forth in the Christian nations. It is designated by its admirers as “ the love of freedom :" but in the late revolution it developed itself in its true character ; and has certainly left a temper and feeling in Christendom, on the consequences of which it is not