« PreviousContinue »
ments at the very commencement of that day, which cometh as a thief, when apostates are destroyed by fire from heaven, when “the fourth beast is slain, and his body given to the burning flame," seem to be here in view of the Spirit; but the final judgments which are to follow when the prolonged season and time of the rest of the beasts is expired; when the general judgment of the wicked dead shall come, and men in the flesh perhaps be no more. The distinction made by Tindal, an eminent reformer and martyr of the church of England, between the subjects of the second and third chapters of this epistle to St. Peter, has often struck me as remarkable, - that he, living and smarting under the tyranny of the popedom, could still see, from declarations of Scripture, that when the popedom should decline, a worse enemy of Christ was to arise.
His observations are :-" In the second chapter, he,” St. Peter, “ warneth them of false teachers that should come, and through preaching confidence in false works, to satisfy their covetousness withal, should deny Christ;"
“and so describeth them with their insatiable covetousness, pride, stubbornness, and disobedience to all temporal rule and authority, with their abominable whoredom and hypocrisy, that a blind man may see that he prophesieth it of the pope's holy spirituality, which devoureth the whole world with their covetousness, living in all lust and pleasure, and reigning as temporal tyrants. In the third chapter he showeth, that in the latter days the people, through unbelief and lack of fear of the judgment of the last day, shall be even as epicures, wholly given to the fesh, which last day shall yet surely and shortly come, saith he: for a thousand years and one day is with God
And he showeth also how terrible that day shall
be, and how suddenly it shall come, and, therefore, exhorteth all men to look earnestly for it, and to prepare themselves against it with holy conversation and godly living.”
Finally: The first chapter showeth how it shall go in the time of the pure and true Gospel; the second, how it should go in the time of the pope and man's doctrine ; the third, how, at the last, men should believe nothing, nor fear God at all.”
The prophecy in St. Jude's epistle is very similar to the former part of St. Peter's, and may serve to illustrate some of its expressions. Like that of St. Peter, it sees in the false teachers, which had already began to show themselves in the church, the very root and origination of the predicted great apostasy, the actual forming of that combination of deceivers and corrupters, which, continuing its hurtful operations till the very coming of the Lord from heaven, would be then judged in his presence :
4. “ For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation."
“Who long ago have been before written to this very punishment:"i that is, they have been marked out by the ancient prophets, as being to subsist in the church in the latter days, and being to be punished in this very
St. Jude designates them much as St. Peter :
Ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. I will, therefore, put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having once saved the
people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed them that believed not."
Such will be the fate of nations once enlightened with the Gospel, and delivered from the idolatrous practices of their forefathers, that they might stand in the relation of his people,” to the God of Israel :
“ And the angels that 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."
Apostate angels God has punished; and shall he not punish apostate Christians ?
“ Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."
This seems to intimate that the increase of sensuality, and the violation of the laws of chastity and of the marriage bond, will be a crying sin of Christendom in the last days :
“ Likewise also these filthy dreamers,"—or, with Macknight, “ In like manner, indeed, these shall also be punished, being cast into a deep sleep. They - defile the flesh, and despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.”
Not merely relaxation of discipline and of loyalty, but a despising of all government, and reviling of the persons of those that bear its functions, was to mark at length the apostasy of the last times :
9. “ Yet Michael, the archangel, when, contending with the devil, he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring," or rather, “ did not attempt to bring"-" against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee."
To whatever event this refers, the instruction meant to be conveyed is evident — that the Head of angels, when protecting his church from a temptation to idolatry, in concealing the body of Moses, - or for whatever other cause he then concerned himself about the body of Moses, — he was resisted by the great adversary, did not bring a railing or reviling accusation against him, but was content with a mild rebuke, or rather, simple invocation of the interposing hand of God. This ought to be an example how all his servants ought to act towards the " higher” or “ sovereign powers,” even in those instances where they are bound to contend with them, and where they verily believe them to be under the instigation of the same prince of darkness, opposing themselves to the interest of true religion.
Whenever, therefore, a disposition is observed in professing Christians to throw off all respect for those that are in authority, and to indulge in evil-speaking and reviling of those who bear the sword of justice, and exercise imperial power, and there are Christian teachers who teach men so, it is one of the marks of the last times; it is the consummation of that apostasy which brings upon the world " swift destruction.”
“ But these," despising such an example as the great archangel showed, and the positive precepts of their holy religion, “speak evil of those things which they know not," *— of the measures of their rulers, which they are too ignorant to understand; “ but what they know
“ naturally as brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves;" —" but what they know naturally as ani
* Ver. 10.
mals void of reason, by these they destroy themselves.” 1 This intimates that those pretended apostles of liberty that shall infect Christendom with their abominable principles, are themselves the slaves of sensuality; and that the increase of sensuality will be their ruin and punishment, as it was of the ancient heathen nations before Christianity came to their relief. * Indeed, the sanctity of marriage, as much of it as remains among us, seems much to depend upon the upholding of existing institutions :
11. “ Woe unto them, for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core."
This verse, I conceive, marks the several stages of the APOSTASY in the different ages of the church. First; its members would emulate Cain in his murderous hatred of his better brother; hence the age of the persecution of the true disciples of Christ by their professed Christian brethren: next, they would imitate Balaam in his prostitution of his sacred office for filthy lucre, and in his attempt to corrupt the church to please the great and powerful : lastly, they would meet their end, in somewhat of a different character, at the eve of the predicted interposition of God; they would assume the attitude of Core, and stand up in opposition to the ministers and authorities ordained of God. The times are altered; and Satan sees that his advantageous ground to oppose the cause of God, and of his holy religion, will not now be to instigate his children to persecute, or to prostitute to his