Page images

ry of the sick of the palsy, 'the forgiving of his sins.' (Matt. ix. 2-5.) In like manner the Psalmist represents the healing of all his diseases, as the forgiving of all his iniquities.' &c. Macknight on the Epistles, Comment. and Note in loco.

BEAUSOBRE and LENFANT have the following Note: 'A sin unto death:] some understand this to be the sin against the Holy Ghost, (Matt. xii. 31,) which however is not very probable; others, that it is impenitence, (see Heb. vi. 4—6. x. 26.) But it appears rather that this passage treats of some of those sins which incur temporal death, as in Acts v. 5; 1 Cor. xi. 30-32. St. John here probably alludes to the distinction which the law made among sins. There were those which it pardoned, and for which a sacrifice was offered, the priest praying to God and obtaining his grace for the sinner; but there were others, as wilful murder, adultery, idolatry, for which there was no sacrifice. It did not follow that the sinner was condemned to eternal death; if he repented, he might be saved, though he should suffer the penalty of the law. So, likewise, under the Gospel, there were sins which God punished by diseases, as is intimated in those words of Jesus Christ on healing the sick, Your sins be forgiven you,' and in St. James v. 15, where the recovery of the sick by prayer is joined with the remission of sins which were regarded as the cause of the disease. When therefore any Christian had committed one of those sins which the law condemned without mercy, and had afterwards fallen into a dangerous sickness, that sickness was supposed to be the punishment of his sin. I do not say, observes St. John, that you should ask of God recovery and life for such a sinner; it is a sin unto death. God will do with it as he sees fit, and pardon it if he chooses.'-Le Nouveau Test, par Messrs. De Beausobre et Lenfant, in loco.

[ocr errors]

LIGHTFOOT, though not very definite in his explanation, inclines to the opinion that the sin unto death was such as, in the apostolic age, incurred natural death by the special judgment of God; of which we have examples in the case of Ananias and Sapphira.-Sermon on 1 John v. 16. Works, vol. vi p. 335. London. 1822.

WHITBY'S Paraphrase: 'If any man see his [sick] brother sin a sin which is not unto death, [i. e. for which God hath not peremptorily threatened and required that he should die for it, as he did to them that were guilty of murder, Gen. ix. 5, 6. Numb. xxxv. 30, 31, and for idolatry, Deut. xvii. 2-5.] he shall ask [of God restoration of his life and health;] and he shall give him life for them that sin not [thus] unto death. There is a sin unto death; [of which God hath denounced

that he that doeth it, shall die for it;] I do not say that he shall pray for it [i. e. for deliverance of the person guilty of it, from death.'] He subjoins the following note: A sin unto death.] Note here that the phrase, He shall give him life, cannot reasonably be interpreted of eternal life, for that depends not on the prayers of other men; nor can they be certain that their intercession shall prevail for it, since it belongs only to them who truly repent and reform their lives. 2. Because the person to be prayed for, is one that hath not sinned unto death, i. e. hath not committed a sin which renders him obnoxious to death eternal. 3. They who interpret this phrase, A sin unto death, of a sin on which eternal death will certainly follow by the decree of God, 1. Make the duty here enjoined impracticable; for who can know when his brother's sin is thus to death or not? Who is acquainted with any such decree of God? 2. They make the difference betwixt a sin unto death and not to death, to consist not in the nature of the sins themselves, but in the decree by God passed upon the sinner. 3. They make the apostle say, He dares not encourage them to pray for the salvation of them who are at present in a state of death and condemnation, which is against the tenor of the Scripture. See Rom. x. 1. The words, 'If a man see his brother sin a sin not unto death,' seem like unto those of St. Paul, 'If he see him overtaken with a fault,' Gal. vi. 1; i. e. with an act of injustice against his brother, to awaken him out of which sin, God hath inflicted sickness on him, as he did on the Corinthians, 1 Cor. xi. 30. The words, 'Let him ask, and he shall give him life,' seem parallel to those of St. James,

The prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up.' See the Note on James v. 15. If this interpretation will not stand good, consider, that after all the miracles and distributions of the Holy Ghost, vouchsafed in confirmation of the gospel, too many of the Jews apostatized from the profession of it, relapsing to their former Judaism. And this apostacy may here be termed the sin unto death; it being also that which our Saviour represents as the sin against the Holy Ghost, which should not be forgiven, (Matt. xii. 32.) And they who commit it being men, saith the apostle, 'whom it is impossible to renew unto repentance,' (Heb. vi. 4-6,) and to whom there remaineth nothing but fearful looking for of judgment, (Heb. x. 26, 27,) the apostle might well add I do not say that you shall pray for them.'-Whitby on the New Test. Paraphrase and Annot. in loco.



HENRY is not decided with regard to the meaning of the He thinks the death and life here mentioned, may be, 1. temporal life and death; and he adduces the cases of Ana

nias and Sapphira and of those Corinthians to whom St. Paul (1 Cor. xi. 30,) refers, to illustrate this application. Or, 2. he thinks that spiritual and eternal death and life may be intended.-Exposition of the Old and New Test. on 1 John v.


DR. A. CLARKE says, 'This is an extremely difficult passage, and has been variously interpreted. What is the sin not unto death, for which we should ask, and life shall be given to him that commits it? And what is the sin unto death, for which we should not pray? I shall note three of the chief opinions on this subject. I. It is supposed that there is here an allusion to a distinction in the Jewish law, where there was

chatah lemothah, a sin unto death, and

חטאה למותה

Son chatah lo lemothah, a sin not unto death; that is, 1. A sin or transgression to which the law had assigned the punishment of death, such as idolatry, incest, blasphemy, breach of the Sabbath, and the like. And, 2. A sin not unto death, i. e. transgressions of ignorance, inadvertence, &c. and such as in their own nature appear to be comparatively light and trivial. That such distinctions did exist in the Jewish synagogue, both Schoettgen and Carpzovius have proved. II. By the sin not unto death, for which intercession might be made,—and unto death, for which prayer might not be made, we are to understand transgressions of the civil law of a particular place, some of which must be punished with death, according to the statutes, the crime admitting of no pardon; others might be punished with death, but the magistrate had the power of commuting the punishment, i. e. of changing death into banishment &c. for reasons that might appear to him satisfactory, or at the intercession of powerful friends. To intercede in the former case would be useless, because the law would not relax; therefore they need not pray for it. But intercession in the latter case might be prevalent, therefore they might pray; and if they did not, the person might suffer the punishment of death. III. The sin unto death means a case of transgression, particularly of grievous backsliding from the life and power of godliness, which God determines to punish with temporal death; while at the same time he extends mercy to the penitent soul. The disobedient prophet (1 Kings xiii. 1—32,) is on this interpretation a case in point; many others occur in the history of the church and of every religious community. The sin not unto death, is any sin which God does not choose thus to punish. This view of the subject is that taken by the late Rev. J. Wesley, in a sermon entitled, A call to backsliders. (Works, vol. x. p. 92.)—I do not think the passage has anything to do with what is termed the sin against the Holy Ghost; much less,

with the popish doctrine of purgatory; nor with sins committed before and after baptism, the former pardonable, the latter unpardonable, according to some of the fathers. Either of the last opinions (viz II. and III.) makes a good sense; and the first (I.) is not unlikely. The apostle may allude to some maxim or custom in the Jewish church, which is not now distinctly known. However, this we know, that any penitent may find mercy through Christ Jesus; for through him every kind of sin may be forgiven to man, except the sin against the Holy Ghost, which I have proved no man can now commit.'-Commentary on the New Test. in loco.

J. WESLEY'S explanation has already been mentioned as given in his Sermons. In another work, having first explained the passage as referring to spiritual life and death, he adds, 'A sin unto death may likewise mean one which God has determined to punish with death.'-Notes upon the New Test. in loco.

To the explanations now presented, we add another of a different purport, which has been advanced by some distinguish. ed critics. To us it appears erroneous, as it seems to do violence to the evident context of the passage; our readers, however, will exercise their own judgment on it as well as on the preceding:

ROSENMUELLER, after giving the different opinions of commentators on the passage, concludes thus: 'I suspect that the 16th, 17th, and 18th verses do not connect with the preceding; and that the entreaties which are forbidden to be made for those who have committed a sin unto death, are such as are addressed not to God, but to magistrates, to whom belongs the right of inflicting the punishment of death for the more heinous of fences. It therefore appears to me that a sin unto death, is any capital crime whatsoever; and a brother, not any man indefinitely, but a Christian. For a Christian who had perpetrated such a crime, the apostle did not wish entreaty to be made to the magistrates who had the power of life and death, lest the heathens should be led to suspect that such offences were regarded as trivial by the Christians. A sin not unto death, appears to have been a slighter dereliction, some transgression of civil law, which the heathen magistrates might so exaggerate, if committed by a Christian, as to sentence him to death, at the same time that he might with propriety be discharged with a less punishment. For such an offender, a Christian brother might pray that his life should be granted him: he shall ask, and he shall give him life; i. e. he may ask

1833.] Methods of Interpreting the Book of Revelation. 193

of the magistrate, and by his entreaties implore life for him. Such is my conjecture. If a better can be given, I shall cheerfully yield. I see however that Morus has adopted this explanation, after I had proposed it.'-Rosenmülleri Scholia in Nov. Test. in loco.


H. B.


Methods of Interpreting the Book of Revelation.

1. Dissertations on the Prophecies which have remarkably been fulfilled, and at this time are fulfilling in the world. By Thomas Newton, D. D. late Lord Bishop of Bristol. (Second volume, containing an Analysis of the Revelation.)

2. A Dissertation on the prophecies, that have been fulfilled, are now fulfilling, or will hereafter be fulfilled, relative to the Great Period of 1260 years; the Papal and Mahommedan Apostacies, the tyranical Reign of Antichrist, or the Infidel Power: and the Restoration of the Jews. By George Stanley Faber, B. D. Vicar of Stockton-upon-Tees. (Second Volume.) 3. Commentarius in Apocalypsin Joannis. Scripsit Jo. Godofr. Eichhorn.

THERE has been, of late years, a considerable change in the views entertained by the people at large concerning the Apocalypse. Many now living remember the time when the greater part of it was commonly taken for an account, nearly literal, of scenes and transactions in the invisible world. It is true that men of general information, and especially those among the clergy, regarded it then as now, in a very different light. We speak, however, of the great mass of readers. Though what was expressly referred to the earth, sea, rivers or mountains, was allowed in most cases to belong to this world, yet all the visions exhibited in heaven, all the imagery placed without this diurnal sphere,' were vulgarly supposed to have an actual existence among the sacred realities of the spiritual state. There stood a great white throne, surrounded with elders and wonderful forms offering vocal praise to the Eternal; there stood in palpable shape the Lamb of God on the height of the celestial Mount Sion; angels were in attendance, with trumpets, vials and instruments of destruction, to announce or to execute the sovereign mandates; the disembodied souls of martyrs were literally sheltered under the awful covert of Je

« PreviousContinue »