« FöregåendeFortsätt »
apostle; such as do excel in their kmdness to the faithful ministers of Jesus Christ, have oft-limes in this life some special marks of honour and respect put upon them by God, as a token of his gracious acceptance of them. Observe, 3. The interest which Gaius had in St. John's affections, he styles hfra the well-beloved Gaius; and shows also what was the motive and attractive of that his love, namely, the truth, that is, the gospel of Christ, called eminently the truth: he loved Gaius in the truth, that is, in great sincerity, and for the truth, for his smcere professing and practising the doctrine of the gospel. The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius, whotn I love in the truth: such as love the truth are, and ought to be, the special objects of our love.
2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
Observe here, 1. This holy man, Gaius, who was so hospitable an host to the ministers and members of Christ, had but a weak and sickly body, and wanted health: strength of grace and dearness of respect, even from God himself, cannot prevail against diseases; such as are most holy are sometimes most weak and sickly. Observe, 2. That though Gaius had but a weak and consumptive body, yet had he a very thriving and vigorous soul; it is a very common, yet a very sad and true, observation, that men of strong, healthy, and active bodiet, have weak, lame, sickly, and sinful fouls. Ah, wretched sinner! when under obligations to serve thy God best, thou forgettest him most, and prostitutest thy health to the service of thy lust:: how does the health and ease of one day deserve the service and thankfulness of thy whole life! But, alas! instead of that, thou makest him 1o serve with thy sins, and layest the first fruits of thy time and strength upon the devil's altar. Observe, 3. Our apostle's wish on the behalf of Gaius, namely, that his body were as healthful as his soul was holy, that he had as much health in the one, as he had grace in the other; / wish above all things that thou may est prosper and be in health, even as thy. soul prospereth. Behold here, such an improved and well-grown christian was this holy man Gaius, that our apostle makes the prosperous slate of his soul the measure of all that prosperity which the one could wish, or the other desire; as thy soul prospereth, so may
thy bodily health, for the service of God and of thy soul.
3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
Observe here, 1. The commendable testimony which the brethren that came from Gaius gave to St. John concerning his holy and unblamable conversation, according to the direction of the gospel. The brethren testified of thee, that thou walkest in the truth: good reports of our brethren, without detracting any thing from their worth, is a manifest duty. Observe, 2. With what joy and rejoicing St. John received the notices of Gaius' adherence to the truth, and of his answerable walking thereunto. I rejoiced when the brethren came and testified of thee; he did not envy the grace of God so largely conferred on Gaius, but rejoiced in it, and no doubt blessed God exceedingly for it; soul-mercies are the greatest mercies, and matters of the greatest joy to gracious souls. Observe, 3. That additional joy which St. John expresses to hear that his children, that is, those persons whom he had converted to christianity, and begotten to Christ through the gospel, did walk in the truth, that is, in the sincere practice as well as in the outward profession of religion: / have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth; the faithful ministers of Christ rejoice more in the welfare of their people's souls, than in all their worldly wealth or honour.
5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; 6 Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church ; whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shall do well: 7 Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth.
Observe here, How our apostle at once commends the great charity of Gaius, and at the same time excites him to the farther
practice of it. Where note, 1. How charity towards christians is here styled fidelity to Christ, because shown to them upon Christ's account: Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren. Acts of charity are acts of righteousness and fidelity? lie that is uncharitable is unjust. Note, 2. The extensive nature of Gaius's charity; it was to brethren, yet not only to brethren but to strangers; that is, not only to the brethren of the church with him, but to stiangers in their travels to and fro, as they came near him; but more particularly lc such faithful ministers as came out of foreign parts to preach the gospel, whom Gaius had hospitably and charitably entertained. Note, 3. How he exhorts Gaius farther to furnish and help these ministers in their travels with all things necessary for their journey; because, 1. They preached the gospel freely, taking nothing of the Gentile christians for their pains. 2. Because it was for Christ's name sake they went abroad: to preach the gospel, say some; to avoid persecution, say others. 3. Because to entertain such, is to further, as much as in us lies, the propagation of t tie gospel of Christ: such as contribute towards the maintenance and support of the ministers of Christ for his sake, shall have the present comfort and future teward of co-operating and contributing their parts towards the propagating and spreading of the gospel of Christ.
9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them, receiveth ns not. 10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and, not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
Observe here, 1. The pious care which St. John took for the relief and succour of such faithful christians as now travelled amongst them, both to avoid persecution, and to preach the gospel ; he wrote to the church on their behalf, desiring their reception, and advising their relief; I wrote to the church, that is, I wrote for them, and sent my testimonial to the church on their behalfevery one has a pen to plead for himself, oappy he that has both tongue and pen to
intercede for others. Observe, 2. The opv position which St. John met with in so good a work; Diotrephes, a proud man, regarded not his letters, acknowledged not his authority, yea, slighted the apostle, prating against him with malicious words: the holiest men may meet with opposition in the holiest and best of actions, wherein the glory of God and the public good are most concerned. 1 wrote to the church, but Diotrephes received us not. Observe, 3. The holy apostle's resentment of this indignity, and wise resolution thereupon: When I come, I will remember his deeds: that is, I will sharply rebuke him, and use that severity towards him which his crime deserves, according to the authority which God has given me. Learn hence, That though private offences against Christ's ministers must be foigiven and forgotten by them; yet when an offence is prejudicial to the church, it must be opposed, and openly censured.
11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.
Here St. John advises his beloved Gaius, and those with him, not to imitate and follow this evil example of Diotrephes, (who not only refused charity towards the chrislian Jews that wanted it, himself, but would not permit the Gentile christians to receive them or relieve them,) but to follow the ex., ample of God, who is good to all; and, accordingly, he that is merciful is born of God, but he that is malicious hath no true knowledge of God, but is a mere stranger to him. Behold here the enlogy and high commendation which the Spirit of God gives to charitable and good men: He that doeth good is of God, he is allied to heaven, born of God, and his offspring: but the uncharitable evil man is a composition of spite, envy, and malice, bom from beneath, and the devil's offspring.
12 Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself; yea, and we alto bear record ; and ye know that our record is true.
Having propounded the example of God in the former verse, he propounds in this the example of Demetrius, as a pattern to them for their imitation in works of piety and charity; not only common report, and the
apostle's testimony, but his own good works, did justly recommend him as an extraordinary pattern to their imitation. Note, 'I'llat the commendations, which our own good works do give us before the world, are more valuable than all the praises and applauses which can be given to us by men, yea, by the best of men. Demetrius has a good report of oilmen, yea, of the truth itself.
13 I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: 14 But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak
face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.
Thus our apostle concludes his epistle with an apology for the brevity of it, hoping in a short time to see him, and to speak face to face unto him; he concludes with his apostolic valediction, Peace be to thee: unto which adding the brethren's salutations, it teaches us, that kind remembrances and greetings are suitable to christian friendship: Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.
EPISTLE GENERA L
The design and scope of this Epistle appears to be much the lame with lint of the Second of St. Peter, and was written probably about the same time; the intent of both is this, namely, to fortify the christian Jews against the errors and coriuptionsof those seducers, wholly their wicked lives, and worse doctrines, attempted to seduce persons from the plainness and simplicity of the gospel, and to bring upon them the same condemnation and judgment with themselves.
TUDE, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: 2 Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.
Here we have observable, the person saluting, the persons saluted, and the salutation itself. Observe, 1. The person saluting described three ways. 1. By his name, Jude, called Thaddeus and Lebbeus, to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot. Behold, an holy apostle, and a perfidious traitor, bearing the same name; Judas an apostle, and Judas an apostate: it is not an holy name, but an holy nature, that commends us unto God. 2. By his office, a servant of Jesus Christ; he might have styled himself a near kinsman of Jesus Christ, or a brother of the Lord; but he mentions not his natural, but his spiritual, relation to
Christ: alliance in faith, or a spiritual relation to Christ, is much dearer and nearer than alliance in flesh: there is a peculiar honour and excellency in the title of Christ's servant, above that of Christ's kinsman. 3. By his kindred and alliance, brother of James; this is added to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot: it is the duty of the servants, but especially the ministers, of Christ, to prevent all scandalous exceptions against their persons, and to be of untainted reputations: Jude, the servant of Christ, and brother of James. Observe, 2. The persons saluted: these also are three ways described. 1. They are sanctified by God the Father; The apostle judges of them by their profession, and by t heir obligation; they had, by assuming the christian name, obliged themselves to be saints or holy persons; and by their profession did own and declare themselves so to be; and no doubt many of them weru inwardly sanctified, as well as outwardly holy. 2. They are preserved in Christ Jesus : that is, Id the faith of Christ Jesus, when many for fear of persecution have apostatized from it: he that will approve himself a true christian, must show himself a stedfast Christian; instability is an argument of insincerity. Again, preserved in Christ Jesus, that is,
I reserved in a state of grace and holiness, y Christ Jesus, by the merit of his death and passion, by the prevalence of his intercession, and by the Holy Spirit's efficacy and operation. 3. They are called, all of them externally, by the ministry of the word; internally, many of them, by the effectual operation of the Spirit, renewing the nature, and reforming the life; these are the persons saluted, them that are sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Christ Jesus, and called. Observe, 3. The salutation itself, Mercy, peace, and love, be multiplied unto you; mercy from God, the Father of mercies; peace from Jesus Christ, who is our peace; and love from the Holy Ghost, by whom it is shed abroad in our hearts: and his praying that these graces may not be barely given and granted, but be multiplied and increased, intimates to us our duty, which is, not barely to seek grace at the hands of God, but the multiplication and augmentation of it; to labour after grace in growth, as well as grace in truth. Mercy, peace, and love, be multiplied; thankful we may and ought to be for the least measures of grace received, but not satisfied with the greatest measures, short of our heavenly perfection; he was never truly good that does not desire daily to grow better.
3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence 19,write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
Observe here, 1. A courteous and loving compilation, Beloved; people should study to render themselves fit objects of their pastor's love. Observe, 2. How his love towards them put him upon writing to them with all diligence: love must be the spring and fountain of all our ministerial performances; all services without love, are as sacrifices without fire. Christ first enquired after Peter's love, before he urged him to labour; God will reward no services to our people, but what have been done in love.
Observe, 3. The excellency and weigh tinesi
of the subject about which he was to write, it was concerning the common salvation ; so called, not as if it were a salvation common to all persons, good and bad; but because common to all believers, who bare a joint title to it, and a common interest in it; the salvation which the gospel reveals, is a common salvation; it is common In regard of the purchaser of it, Christ, our common saviour; in regard of the price paid for it, the precious blood of Christ; in regard to the way and means by which it is obtained and secured, and that is faith; and in regard of the earnest of it, and longings after it, the Holy Spirit of God is common to all believers, and gives them a pledge, an earnest of, and sets them a breathing after and longing for, this salvation. Observe, 4. The exhortation itself. Earnestly to contend for the faith one* delivered to the saints, that is, for the sincere doctrine of the gospel delivered by Christ. Once delivered; that is, once for all, so as never to be changed or altered more, no new rule of faith is evermore to be expected; and therefore the articles of faith added to the apostle's creed by the council of Trent, can be no articles of Christian faith, because never delivered by Christ or his apostles, and never known to many christians long after their decease. Learn, That it is the duty of christians at all times, but especially in times of error and seduction, to contend earnestly for that pure and uncorrupted faith which is contained in the gospel.
4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation; ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Here we have a reason of the foregoing exhortation assigned, why we should contend so earnestly for the christian faith once delivered by Christ to his apostles, because there were crept, by little and little, such seducers into the church, as would endeavour to adulterate and corrupt it: There are certain men crept in unawares. Note here. That corrupters and corruptions creep secretly and gradually into the church; and heretics do not broach all their errors and false doctrines at once: vain then and frivolous is the question which the church of Rome asks 10, When did their innovations and false doctrines come first into the church? They crept in, and that unawares; it is enough for us that we find them there, though we assign not the time when, nor the manner how, they did come in. Observe next, The character and description which our apostle gives of these seducers crept in amongst them. 1. He tells us they were men foreordained to condemnation; mark, not foreordained to seduction to sin, but to condemnation for sin; the word rendered fore- ordained, signifies before written, or before prophesied of, by Enoch and others, that they would by their great sins and impieties fall into that condemnation which God hath ordained as a just reward to their transgressions; God never ordaineth or decreeth any man's sin, but he decreeth and foretelleth their condemnation for sin. 2. He styles them wicked, ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness; pointing at the Nicolaitans, Gnostics, and other impure heretics, that sprang from Simon Magus, who made the doctrine of the free grace of God, discovered in the gospel, a cloak for their looseness and lasciviousness. Errors in doctrine are usually accompanied with corruption in manners, as being most suitable to man's corrupt, vile nature, and will be sure never to want followers. 3. He charges them with denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ; t hat is, Jesus Christ our only Master, God, and Lord, called by St. Peter, the Lord that bought them; lessening the dignity of his person, and invalidating what they could the merit of his death and sufferings. Learn hence, 1. That Jesus Christ, the Master of the world, the Lord of the church, is truly God; he is called the great God, and the mighty God, to show that he is not a God inferior to, but equal to, the Father, and that by nature, not by office. Learn, 2. That it is an horrid impiety to deny our Lord Jesus Christ, to deny him in either of his natures, or in any of his offices; to deny him either in opinion, or in practice, is a sin that carries a prodigious appearance with it: They denied the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
In this,and the following verses, our apostle, to deter them from following the pernicious ways of these seducers, sets before them the several examples of God's judgments inflicted in former times upon persons guilty of such crimes as these seducers were stigmatized for, and guilty of; he begins with the Israelites in the wilderness; as they perished through unbelief, after they were brought out of Egypt, so shall revolters perish, notwithstanding their baptism, and fair beginnings. Learn hence, 1. That God's judgments inflicted on some, are, and ought to be, warnings unto all. 2. That God's ancient judgments were ordained to be our warnings and examples; his holiness is the same as ever, his justice the same, his hatred of sin the same, and his power to revenge it the same as ever; his judgments now may be more spiritual, but they are not less terrible. Learn, 3. That unbelief will as certainly bring destruction upon Christians now, as it did upon the Israelites of old. Did God destroy them that believed not his power then? no less will he destroy them that believe not his promise now.
6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.
The next example set before them, is that of the apostate angels, who for their rebellion against God were thrown down from heaven, and are reserved as so many prisoners in chains of darkness, to the judgment of the great day, when their condition will be more miserable than now it is. Now, if God did not spare apostatizing angels, surely he will not spare apostatizing seducers. Note here, 1. The sin of the angels; they left their first state, namely, their state of holiness. 2. Their punishment; they left their own habitation, they departed from that place of happiness and glory which before they enjoyed; when they changed their nature, they changed their place: the presence of an holy God, is no place for unholy persons. Note, 3. That the angels are kept in chains, and those chains are everlasting; the chain of God's eternal decree holds them; the chain of their own guilt holds them; the chain of utter despair eternally holds them. Note, 4. That the day of judgment will be a great day, and at that day the punishment of fallen