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been thought to prove the fall of angels from their original station in heaven. But as all the other examples here mentioned are from the Old Testament history, and we have no other account of this fall of angels, it is probable that it is only an allusion to some circumstance or other in the writings of Moses. Various have been the conjectures of learned men on the subject; but what appears to me the most probable is that which was suggested by Mr. Palmer, (now in Botany Bay,)* in the Theological Repository, which is, that they were those who, in the account of the Antedi. luvians, are called the sons of God, a term which, in the LXX. is often rendered angels, and who, with the rest of the old world, were destroyed in the deluge, when Noah and his family were saved.† This makes the whole a connected series of examples, for the others follow in the order of time, the next being that of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
10. These are other characters of the Gnostics. They were charged with impure practices ; at the same time they were in the age of the apostles chiefly Jews, who disclaimed all subjection to foreigners. Of this there are numerous intimations in the writings of Paul.
11. To what the apostle alludes, in this place, or Jude ver. 9, in a similar passage, in which he says, that “ Michael the archangel, disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not bring any railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee," does not appear with certainty. Some think it is to some apocryphal story that is now lost; but others think it only an allusion to Zech. iii. 1, 7, where we read, “ And he shewed me Joshua the high-priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan, even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee;" supposing, with some of the ancients, that by Joshua was meant the Jewish people, whom Jude might call the body of Moses, as Paul (1 Cor. xii. 27] calls Christians the body of Christ.
• Rev. T. F. Palmer, of Queen's College, Cambridge, a writer in the Theol. Repos. under the signature of Anglo-Scotus. Mr. Palmer, who, by his integrity and his unmerited sufferings, was endeared to Lindsey, Disney, and many other estimable friends, as well as to myself, died of a fever, at Golam, one of the Ladrones, in 1801. He had been shipwrecked there on his return from exile, and imprisoned by the Spaniards. See Vol. II. pp. 873, 416.
† See Theol. Repos. V. pp. 166-181. On ver. 5, see Winder's Hist. of Knowledge, Ed. 2, 1756, I. pp. 81, 82, 92. VOL. XIV.
18. According to some MSS. it is, those who had for a short time only escaped them that live in error.*
19. If the Gnostics were universally, or generally, persons of the character here described, the sentence which the apostle passes upon them was, no doubt, just. Men, abandoned to wickedness, whatever be their opinions, will be punished in another world ; but as they were persons who made a profession of Christianity, and some of them in after ages were even martyrs, it may be presumed that this very black character did not apply to all the Gnostics. They believed in the divine mission of Christ, whatever they might think of his person, and they expected a future state of retribution, though not in the body. They had, therefore, sufficient motives to a virtuous life, and these must have had their proper effects on some, and the purest principles do not produce their proper effects on all.
22. These Gnostics must have been such as had not always been of that class, but had been led to adopt their principles from the representation that had been given of them, and had probably been much influenced by the learning and eloquence of their teachers. For they were the philosophers of the age, while the apostles in general had no pretensions to any human learning. They had only a plain story to tell, and it required only such attestation as they were qualified to give to it.
24. The apostle considers sin as fastened to the cross along with Christ.
III. In the last part of this epistle, † the apostle cautions the Christians to whom he writes, against the Heathens, who believed in no future state, as well as against the Gnostics.
1. He wrote to the unprejudiced, to caution them against the seduction of others.
3, 4. It is possible that by this language the apostle might not mean unbelievers, but the Gnostics, since they believed the future state to commence to each individual at the time of his death, and probably denied that there would be any such second coming of Christ, or day of general judgment, as other Christians expected. But then his inference from their opinions would not be just, because the Gnostics had as firm a belief in a future state of retribution as any Christians. They had, therefore, the same motive
See Le Clerc; Doddridge; Markland in Bowyer. + See Tillotson and Grotius in Doddridge.
to a virtuous life. In strictness, this language of the apostle can only apply to the profligate unbelievers in Christianity.
5. Strictly speaking, no person can be wilfully ignorant ;* but under strong prejudices, they may be so indisposed to receive the truth, that no evidence of it will make a suitable impression upon them. They may even refuse to give any attention to it.
6+-10. As the world was once destroyed by a flood, there is no reason to believe that it will continue for ever in its present state. It may, therefore, be destroyed by fire, or any other means. But the language of the apostle in this place is probably figurative, and only descriptive of those great changes in the state of the world which will precede the second coming of Christ, and the commencement of his proper kingdom. Neither our Saviour, nor Paul, nor John in the Revelation, though they speak of the day of judgment, and sometimes much at large, make any mention of a conflagration. John says, [Rev. xxi. 1,] there will be new heavens and a new earth, which is the very language used by Peter, in this place ; and to make way for them he says, that the old heavens and the old earth passed away, and no place was found for them. Since, therefore, the final result was the same, according to both these apostles, the means that led to it were probably the same in the ideas of them both, though they use different figures of speech.
12. The apostle here could not mean that the heavens would really be on fire, || though he uses that language.
• “ For, in saying (Neyoytas) this, they are ignorant.". Bowyer.
+ Ver. 7. " Are treasured up for fire, reserved against the day of judgment." Knatchbull in Bowyer. Ver. 8. One day—as a thousand years. “ A proverbial expression among the Jews, to signify that no finite duration bears any proportion to the eternity of God. Plutarch (on the Slowness of the Divine Vengeance) has a passage exactly parallel.” Doddridge.
1 “ I thiok with Wetstein, that the passage in St. Peter relates not to the final day of judgment, but to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the great change to be made in the world in consequence of that most important event. The principal objection against this interpretation is the mention of the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men, which expression seems, at first view, to have reference to the final day of judgment: but it is very material, that in Isaiah xxxiv. 8, the LXX. for the day of vengeance, have fuepa xpirews; and it is clearly proved by Mr. Mede, that that chapter of Isaiah hath no relation to the day of judgment. Éusebius, in his commentary, understands the destruction of Jerusalem to be there foretold. In like manner the day of judgment, aquepa xproews, in several places of St. Matthew's Gospel, is understood by learned men to refer to the same great event, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. See Wetstein on Matt. x. 15; xi. 22; xii. 41, 42; and Pearce on Matt. x. 15; xiii. 39–43, 47–50." Dodson's Isaiah (lv. 17), pp. 368, $69.
" Hastening on." Blackwall (S. C.), II. p. 180. See Doddridge. See Impr. Vers.
Since this, therefore, must be a figurative expression, we may suppose that the same language applied to the earth is figurative also. Both the prophet Isaiah and our Saviour, make use of language highly figurative in describing the same event, and though not the very same with this of Peter, it approaches very near to it. Isaiah says, (Chap. xxxiv. 4,) “ All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll, and all their hosts shall fall down.” And our Saviour says, (Matt. xxiv. 29,) “The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.” The idea of a total dissolution of the present system is common to them all, though their language (in all, highly figurative) be not exactly the same.
14. Whatever there, may be of figure in the language of the apostle, the inference which he draws from the plain truth is in the highest degree important. If the great event is to take place, the distance of the time, or the uncertainty with respect to the time, should have no weight with us. We should, in the language of our Saviour, [Matt. xxiv.33] consider it as near, even at the door. He gave many earnest admonitions to this purpose.
15.* Instead of taking advantage of a delay of judgment, we ought to acknowledge the kindness of God in it, since it is giving us a longer space for repentance. To this purpose are several passages in the epistles of Paul, as Rom. ji. 4: Despisest thou the riches of his goodness—and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" We have here a valuable testimony to the authenticity and excellence of Paul's epistles, and from this it appears that they were generally known and read by Christians in that early period.
16. The word all implies that a considerable number of them, if not all that we now have, were then extant.t
Treating of this subject. I
This approbation of Peter extends to all the epistles of Paul that were written before this of his own, which were probably all he wrote. What these things were that were hard to be understood, in the writings of Paul, does not appear; but it is sufficiently evident that, in the opinion of Peter, they were many; and it is very possible they might
• Our beloved brother. " Added, probably, by the copyists, to give an apostolical sanction to this epistle." Grotius in Bowyer.
+ See Lardner, VI. p. 671.
be perverted to a bad purpose,* as indeed any writings may, even the acknowledged Scriptures themselves, as Peter here observes. Peter does not say that Paul treats of this particular subject in all his epistles, but that in all his epistles, in some of which he treats of it, there are things hard to be understood, and which had been thus perverted.
We see that Peter classes the writings of Paul in some sense or other with the Scriptures, all of which were written by prophets, and contain important truths. But for this purpose it was not necessary that they should be written by a direct inspiration, the Divine Being superintending every word that dropped from their pen. The occasion did not require this; and there are several passages, especially in the writings of Paul, in which he expressly says, that he wrote from himself, without any superior direction.t
Every thing written by the apostle John was late in his life, and he lived to a great age, chiefly at Ephesus, after the Jewish war. His gospel, if not his epistle, was written at the importunity of Christians, who, as he was the last of the apostles, were desirous of having some written memorial of what he had taught them: and that this was the case, is probable from the style and contexture of his writings, in which there is the greatest simplicity imaginable, and no trace of any thing belonging to the art of composition. What he wrote was solely from the heart, and without any attention to method.
There never was any doubt with respect to the genuineness of any thing ascribed to this apostle, except the Revelation, the style of which was thought to be considerably different from that of his other writings, though not more so than the difference of the subjects made necessary.
The principal object of all the writings of John was to oppose the opinions of the Gnostics, and especially the Docelæ, who maintained that Jesus was only a man in appearance, that he had no real flesh or blood, and, conse
• Unlearned. “ The word rather signifies persons of a disingenuous, indocible spirit; accordingly they are said to rack and torture the Scriptures. • Ferunt ad lectionem, malum animum et præjudicare sumpta. (Grotius.)" Cardale (Pref: Ess.), p. 54, Note. See Doddridge; Theol. Repos. II. pp. 462_464.
+ Ver. 18. After Jesus Christ, “ three MSS. and the Syriac version add the words, and of God the Father.” Belsham's Inquiry, p. 369.