« PreviousContinue »
prophets and apostles, had rendered this beyond all doubt, that in after times "some," or rather, "certain persons"- the word here rendered some' is often used where many are concerned, shall apostatize from the true faith:
"Giving heed to seducing spirits," to teachers pretending inspiration, or actuated by evil spirits," and to doctrines of devils,"— rather, concerning demons.
By demons, the Greeks denoted those intermediate beings between the Deity and mankind that might be supposed to act as mediators or as guardian powers, protectors and patrons, and, as such, to deserve the worship of men. Hence "the Lords many" and "Gods many" of the heathen world. The introduction of the worship of the Virgin Mary, and of all the saints and of many angels, in the apostate churches of Christendom, has clearly fulfilled this prophecy, and the prophecy in Daniel respecting the worship of Mahuzzim.
The apostle proceeds, as he had heard from the Spirit, to designate these last apostates:
Speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving, of them that believe and know the truth," &c.
The expositors of prophecy, Bishop Newton especially, have pointed out the fulfilment of all these particulars in the history of the rise and progress of popery; in the gross impositions and feigned miracles of its promoters, in their deep policy in forcing the celibacy of the clergy, and in their distinctions of meats: nothing, indeed, can be more satisfactory to the unprejudiced mind.
I would also contrast, in this place, rather than in its chronological order, what, some years afterwards, St. Paul writes in his second epistle to the same person. I am of opinion, however, that as the picture of the latter times, in the first epistle, portrayed the ages of Romish superstition and idolatry, so this picture of the last times is intended rather for the delineation of the characters of men in the lawless age of infidelity, the last stage of the apostasy in the western world. 1
"This know, also, that in the last days perilous times shall come for men shall be lovers of their ownselves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce or covenant breakers, accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors or betrayers of trusts-heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof."-" Of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women, laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth :”—
What a picture of a
That is, these silly women. religious devotee! If devotedness to religious instructors were all that was necessary, they surely must know the truth! But all is a deception. These instructors are the deceivers, spoken of by our Lord, that should arise and deceive many; if it were possible, the if it were possible, the very elect:
"Now, as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith."
That is, incapable of discerning and of appreciating the truth;
1 See Mr. Faber.
"But they shall proceed no further; for their folly shall be manifested to all men, as theirs also was."
This last description of the artful seducer imposing upon the weak and credulous, has seemed to suit so well the prevailing influence of the Romish superstition, that few expositors have extended their thoughts further. But if we are right in distinguishing between the corruptions of the latter and of the last days, we must understand these verses of the seducers of this last period. In this last period, indeed, it is no where intimated in Scripture that the delusions of popery are at an end. It would sufficiently answer to the predictions of prophecy, if, in this mature age of the apostasy, that abject superstition, once arrayed in glory, but now driven from the high places of the earth, and superseded by infidel philosophy among the great and learned, were sent to seek its victims among the weak and ignorant, by the more grovelling arts of the less noble seducer. But, certainly, we must class with this remnant of the old dominant superstition, whatever, in these last days, under the semblance of religion, opposes "the truth as it is in Jesus," or is artfully imposed on the weak and illiterate under its name. Surely the prophetic picture before us is,-The stronger part of mankind are become daringly irreligious and unprincipled; and among the more lowly and weak, where you would hope for a more favourable reception of the Gospel, there the false system of some artful seducer or deluded fanatic opposes you, and supplants the truth.
We seem warranted, indeed, to conclude, that these corruptions increase in the professed church more and more towards the time of the end; "Evil seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived."
Remarks on 1 Cor. vi. 2, 3, and on Chapter xv.
We next turn to the First Epistle to the Corinthians. I know of no other fair exposition of the second and third verses of the sixth chapter but that which refers them to the coming of the glorified saints with the Lord Jesus at the last day;
"Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?"
The term rendered "judge” seems to have here the same latitude of meaning as the corresponding term in the Hebrew language, and applies to the general exercise of rule and authority. This passage is, therefore, parallel to the predictions in the ancient prophecies; "And the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom," &c. &c. In what manner angels are subjected to the same rule and government, our information is at present inadequate to explain; but, perhaps, the ministering of angels, mentioned Heb. i. 14, has reference to their subjection to glorified saints, as the partners of the Redeemer's throne: "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them that shall be heirs of salvation?"
The fifteenth chapter of this epistle will principally claim our attention. There we have a full revelation respecting the resurrection of the dead; not, however, immediately of the general resurrection, as it includes that of the unjust, who "come forth to everlasting shame
and contempt." What this chapter treats of, is, the resurrection as it forms the blessed hope and expectation of the redeemed-the emphatical "children of the resurrection." It is a principal object with the apostle to show that there is to be a real resurrection of the body: that the Christian doctrine of immortality and of a future state does not only teach, that the spirit, when separated from the body-returning to its dust-will exist, and be blessed in the beatific vision; but that, in order to enter upon that state of being which is destined for the heirs of glory, the body itself must be raised from the dust, and the departed spirit again come into it.
This was a doctrine, it seems, which some early philosophical corrupters of the church wished to get rid of: they thought it, perhaps, a more refined and spiritual notion, to represent the soul of man as at once a glorified spirit in heaven, without regarding, as further necessary to its perfection, its former tabernacle, taken originally from the dust of the earth. But here our thoughts are not the thoughts of God: human philosophy, in these matters, speculates about things too high for its comprehension. It is certain, that the doctrine of the revealed word of God is totally different from this. It knows nothing of the glorifying of a separated spirit in heaven. It gives sufficient assurance, indeed, that those who sleep in Jesus are safe and happy in their separated state, in "the safe keeping" of God, and are "present with the Lord;" but the consummation of their bliss is still connected, by the divine decree, with the resurrection of the body, as it is called in another place," the redemption of the body;" of the body sleeping in the dust of the
⚫ Luke, xx. 36.
+ Rom. viii. 23.