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God,' and pointed out the judgment which was there to begin it only remains to be shown, lastly, that this exposition of the passage is warranted by facts.
That the Christians, in the apostolic age, did endure most severe afflictions, and that they were exposed to still greater dangers, from which they barely escaped, is abundantly evident, not only from Scripture, but from other authentic history. Of these trials, we have some particular accounts in the Acts of the Apostles, and in some of the epistles of St. Paul. Persecutions from their own countrymen, bonds, imprisonment, scourgings, and other tortures, and even death, awaited those devoted followers of the Lamb of God, wherever they went. So great were their sufferings and privations, that Paul, when speaking of them to his Roman brethren, says, ' For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.' They suffered the loss of all things for Christ; they became as the 'offscouring of all things; and, in fact, the most dreadful predictions of their crucified master were literally fulfilled. Nor was this all; for, when Jerusalem was first besieged by the Roman army, under Cestius Gallus, and the Jewish nation was shut up, as it were, in one immense prison, preparatory to the execution of the divine sentence against them, many Christians were enclosed within the walls of that devoted city; where they suffered severely, not only from those persecutions which were still continued, but also from famine, pestilence, and the raging factions of their countrymen. But a preserving power watched over them, and saved them from impending destruction; for, after Cestius had entered Jerusalem, burnt three divisions of the city, and had it in his power to terminate the war, by the complete destruction of the Jews, he unexpectedly, and unaccountably raised the siege; and thus an opportunity, which they did not fail to improve, was afforded the Christians of making their escape from death, and from the further persecutions of their hardened countrymen. They fled, and found safety in Pella, a mountainous region, beyond the river Jordan; although they had barely time to make their escape, before the city was again invested by a powerful army, under Vespasian and Titus. Thus these persecuted and suffering Christians, although finally delivered, were scarcely saved.
9 Rom. viii. 36.
But a far different fate awaited their ungodly persecutors. They had filled up the measure of their sinfulness; and the just vengeance of Heaven, which had long slumbered over them, burst, at length, upon them with an overwhelming power, overthrowing their city and temple, and making an end of their nation and polity. Death, in its most appalling forms, by the sword, fire, and starvation, was their allotted portion. According to the statement of Josephus, their own faithful historian, no less than one million and one hundred thousand of these miserable sinners perished, in different ways, in Jerusalem alone, during the siege and destruction of that ill-fated city. Well might their historian, in view of their unparalleled sufferings and utter destruction, say, 'Our city, of all those which have been subjected to the Romans, was advanced to the highest felicity, and was thrust down again to the extremest misery; for, if the misfortunes of all, from the beginning of the world, were compared with those of the Jews, they would appear much inferior, upon the comparison. To speak brief, no other city ever suffered such things, as no other generation, from the beginning of the world, was ever more fruitful in wickedness.'
We shall only add, that the circumstances and facts above mentioned, seem amply sufficient to justify the application which has been made of the passage: that the judgment which was to begin at the house of God,' consisted at first, of those afflictions and trials which the primitive Christians endured; and which, extending to their enemies, the ungodly and the sinner,' became, at length, tremendous punishment and righteous retribution for their accumulated sins, and aggravated transgressions; leaving the remnant which escaped destruction, and their despised descendants, an everlasting monument of the righteous displeasure of God against sin and unholiness; and an admonition to all succeeding generations. W. S.
The Terms, Communion and Fellowship.
The terms, communion and fellowship, are religious words; they are principally used among religious people; and by them, when speaking on religious subjects. Their appropriate usage is with reference to admission into the church, partaking of the Lord's Supper in it, or exclusion from it. People speak of communion with God, of receiving persons to, or excluding them from the communion; and of individuals and sects with whom they can hold no fellowship or communion.
Some professors entertain very contracted and exclusive views of christian fellowship or communion. They confine it within the narrow circle of their own sect. Being separated from other sects about some matters of opinion, they hold no more fellowship with them in religion, than the ancient Jews did with the Samaritans. Even in our liberal times, it frequently occurs, that a person of unblemished christian character is expelled from, or refused admission into a church, because he cannot believe all the articles of its creed. But others are retained or received, who are no great honor to Christianity, because they say they believe the whole catalogue, although they do not understand the half of it. Such contracted views of christian fellowship, often produce bad feelings between husband and wife, parents and children, and among persons in all the various relations in society. To an unprejudiced observer, who is ignorant of the New Testament, Christianity must appear, as given to men for a curse rather than a blessing. But if he takes the trouble to examine, he will find it is not Christianity which is to blame, but the professors of it, for these evils. He will perceive that each sect has set up its own standard, defined what Christianity is, and prescribed on what terms others may have its fellowship. It often happens, that some Christians are too high or too low for the standard of others, and unless they are willing to be stretched or contracted to suit the standard, they are rejected as unfit for their communion. It appears to me, such evils can never be removed from among Christians, until primitive apostolic Christianity is better understood.
The term communion occurs four times, and the term fellowship, fifteen times, in our common version of the New Testament. They are for the most part used in rendering the Greek word, koinonia. Koinonos is once rendered fellowship, 1 Cor. x. 20, so is sunkoinoneo, Eph. v. 11. Metoche is also rendered fellowship, 2 Cor. vi. 14. The three first of these Greek words occur frequently, and are rendered by other terms besides communion and fellowship, and some of the instances will be introduced in the course of our remarks. When persons see such words as communication, communicate, contribution, distribution, partakers, &c., in our English version, they never suppose such parts of Scripture can relate to the communion or fellowship of Christians. And yet, these are only different renderings of the same Greek words, and relate in a very important respect to this subject. Parkhurst says,koinonia means, 1. a partaking, participation, 1 Cor. x. 16; Phil. iii. 10:-2. a communion, fellowship, society, Acts ii. 42; 1 Cor. i. 9; 2 Cor. vi. 14; Gal. ii. 9; Phil. ver. 6:3. communication, distribution, almsgiving, Rom. xv. 26; 2 Cor. ix. 13; Heb. xiii. 16; comp. 2 Cor. viii. 4.'
Some critics say, koinonia' was used by the Greeks to denote their religious societies or fellowships.' And that the word sunkoinoneo was used to denote a participation in their religious rites and mysteries.' Dr. Hammond remarks, concerning koinonia, 1. That the word signifies both to distribute, and to receive, to make others partake, and to be a partaker: 2. That it is applicable to friendship or society, no otherwise than to knowledge, or anything else.' To this definition of the word, its scriptural usage corresponds generally; which we shall now more particularly notice.
I. Koinonia signifies, to be a partaker, a joint partaker with others, in something common to them. The question is, what was this? Paul says, Phil. i. 3-5, 'I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all, making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.' And in Eph. iii. 9, it is called the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God;' which Paul thus explains, ver. 6; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.' All Christians were joint partakers of God's
promise in Christ by the gospel.' Hence it is called 'the
common faith,' Tit. i. 4. And as some think, the commoa salvation,' Jude, ver. 3. But other critics think, that the common salvation,' here mentioned, refers to that common temporal salvation which all the disciples of Christ were to enjoy, who continued faithful to the end; which was promised by our Lord, Matt. xxiv. 13, and was enjoyed by them when God's judgments came on the Jewish nation in the destruction of their city and temple. All Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, were joint partakers in the hopes, consolations, privileges, and afflictions of the gospel; see 2 Cor. xiii. 14; Philip. ii. 1, and iii. 10. There was no christian fellowship, but through the belief of the gospel. That which the apostles. had seen and heard, they declared to others, that they might have fellowship with them, or partake in the blessing communicated in the gospel, and become members of the christian fellowship. Paul says to the Corinthians, 1 Epis. iv. 15, 'in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.' How they were called into this fellowship, is obvious from chap. ii. 1, 2, and xv. 1-5. Paul adds, 1 Cor. i. 9, 'God is faithful, by whom ye were called into the fellowship of his son Jesus Christ, our Lord.' The nature of the christian fellowship is more fully described in the following passage:
1 John i. 3, 6, 7, That which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.' On these verses, Macknight makes the following remarks:
In Scripture, koinonia signifies both communication of something to others, and the participation of something with others; a joint participation. In the former sense it is used, 2 Cor. ix. 13, where it is translated, distribution. In the latter sense it is used, 1 Cor. x. 16; Is it not koinonia, the joint participation, of the blood of Christ? The Greeks, likewise, as Chandler informs us, in his note on Eph. v. 11, used the word koinonia to denote a participation in their religious rites and mysteries, and in the benefits supposed to be procured by them. Koinonia also signifies a fellowship, or company of men joined together by some common bond, for