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who goes to an estate and takes possession of it, as belonging to himself, though a total stranger to it, having never even set his eyes upon it, nor heard of it before. They scoffed at the apostles as their inferiors, and appropriated to themselves, in bitter derision, that high reward which Christ held forth to them and their faithful followers. “ While they," says Irenæus, p. 31, “ do many odious and impious things, which we avoid to commit even in thought or word, they rail at us as vulgar and knowing nothing. They extol themselves beyond measure, calling themselves perfect and the chosen seed. They say that we have received our talents only for use, and therefore it will be taken from us ; that they possess theirs as their own inheritance, which descended from on high, with their nuptial union that cannot be expressed or conceived ; and that on this account it shall be added to them.” See Matt. xxv.

The Gnostics, we have seen, were Pharisees and Sadducees, against whom our Lord cautioned his faithful followers, as against wolves coming among them in sheep's clothing. While pretending to be teachers of the gospels, they were in their hearts atheists; and their blasphemy of God, and the divinity of Christ, were tenets which they copied from Heathenism. These notions were most repugnant to the ideas and feelings of every well-disposed disciple of Moses ; but the deceivers endeavoured to recommend, by blending them with things more agreeable to the Jews; such as the necessity of persevering in the rites, or, as they called them, in the works of the law, and the inutility of virtue as the means of acceptance with God. Christ himself had lived among them; and Jerusalem was the great capital in which his Apostles assembled, asserted and defended their Gospel in its purity, and from which, as from a common centre, they propagated it in every direction. For these reasons, the system of the Gnostics appears to have met for some years with less success in Judea, than in other places. When, however, the calamities that awaited that nation began to increase, and the Apostles were most of them dispersed in foreign countries, then, as our Lord predicted, these false prophets arose, and met with lamentable success in deluding not only the Jews in general, but even the believers in Christ. See Matt. xxiv. 21-26. The corruption of the Gospel, and the apostasy of its votaries among the Jewish nation, were the leading circumstances which occasioned the Epistle to the Hebrews, and which account for the many earnest exhortations contained in it against falling from the faith.

This being the general object of the writer, the doctrine of the impostors,—that God was an inferior evil being, that the Christ was not the man Jesus, but a god or an angel within him,-is clearly discernible in various parts. The propriety of the marriage institution was denied by some of the Gnostics; and this led the Apostle to remark, that marriage and the bed undefiled by adultery was honourable in every respect. Heb. xiii. 4. The deceivers denied the connection which subsisted between the Jewish and Christian dispensations, and affirmed that they were delivered by two different beings. Their language on this subject was peculiar: Christ, they said, who delivered the New Covenant, was not the same with the Christ who delivered the Old. Against this tenet the following words of Paul are levelled :“ Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” xiii. 8. That the author had the Gnostics in view is evident from what he subjoins :-“Be not carried away by cunning and foreign doctrines.”

To prevent the converts from being seduced, by the impostors, from Jehovah, as the only living and true God, Paul sets before them the example of their ancestors, who having relapsed into idolatry perished in the wilderness : “Wherefore, as the holy spirit saith, today if ye shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts as

in the provocation, in the day of trial in the wilderness ; when your fathers tried me, proved me, and saw my works forty years : wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They always err in heart, and they have not known my ways; upon which I sware in my anger, they shall not enter into my rest. Do you also, brethren, take heed, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in falling away from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day, lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Heb. iii. 7. : The Apostle argues that as Christ came to deliver mankind, it was necessary that he should be a human being, resembling in all things whom he came to save.

Since, then, the children are partakers of flesh and blood, Christ himself also partook of them, that through death he might destroy him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil ; and might deliver those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to slavery: for Christ hath espoused the cause not indeed of angels, but of the seed of Abraham. Wherefore it behoveth him to be like his brethren in all things; that he might be a compassionate and faithful high priest, to purify the sins of the people, and thus introduce them to God.” Heb. ii. 14. Here the doctrine of the impostors is set aside in very clear terms. Christ was not of a divine or angelic nature, because he did not engage in the cause of angels : he was a man, because his object was to save men from sin and death. Having intimated that the Christ was a man, and not a super-human being, the writer thus proceeds : “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of a beavenly calling, consider Jesus the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, who was faithful to Him that appointed him, as Moses was also faithful in all the household of God." Observe, Paul does not say, consider Christ, or Christ Jesus, but simply consider "Jesus,” the Apostle and High Priest of our profession.

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His object was to preclude the artifice of the Gnostics, that the Christ was not the man Jesus, but a God within him. In opposition to it, the Apostle holds forth, as the Christ, him whom all knew to be a mere man, and whom the impostors blasphemed and rejected, because he was no other than a man.

The preceding inquiry warrants us in concluding that the Gnostic system was introduced into all the churches founded by Paul; and that the melancholy success of its authors was the princinal cause which called forth the letters of that apostle. These letters are then controversial , and the only way of ascertaining the meaning of the writer is to consider the sentiments of those false teachers, which he sought to set aside. The peculiarity of his language on many occasions is to be traced to that of his opponents; and as their terms are not expressly stated, the words and phrases used by Paul became often obscure. I will illustrate this position by an example. The impostors denied the lawfulness of marriage, and at Corinth they taught that young women ought to continue virgins. See 1 Cor. vii. 25. Their object doubtless was to institute a class of virgins sacred to Christ, similar to those of Vesta in the heathen temples. It is on this circumstance that the following words of the apostle are founded; “ I feel a zeal of God (a holy or divine jealousy) towards you, as I have betrothed you to one husband, in order to present you a pure virgin to him, namely, to Christ.” Which when developed means this, “ The men, who seek to deceive you, are anxious to have among you virgins consecrated to Christ. Suffer not yourselves to become the dupes of their craft. No such institution is necessary. Cultivate moral purity in all your thoughts, words and actions ; thus you will yourselves become virgins; and such virgins alone are to be consecrated to the Lord Jesus."

CHAPTER XI.

The writings of Paul perverted in support of Antichristian

doctrines.

No writings have ever been more abused than those of the apostle Paul : they have been perverted to support doctrines which it was the sole object of the author to set aside. And this because the false teachers whom he had in view, have for ages been lost sight of. This is the case with regard to the doctrines of the divine nature of Christ, of justification by faith and not by good works, the effect of his death as an atonement for sin, of election and predestination, of original sin and the natural depravity of man, and of the Gospel being a mystery incomprehensible by human reason. All these have been maintained and attempted to be proved from passages in the epistles of Paul. Let us take a short view of some of these questions.

I. “ The doctrine,” says Mosheim in his Commentaries, vol. i. p. 297, “ taught by the apostles was, that our hope of obtaining pardon and salvation ought to centre in Christ, and his merits: these Jewish teachers, on the contrary, made it their business to extol the efficacy and saving power of works agreeable to the law, and to inculcate on men's minds, that such as had led a life of righteousness and holiness, might justly expect to receive eternal happiness from God as their due. To this doctrine, inasmuch as it went materially to lessen the dignity and importance of our blessed Saviour's character, and was founded on a false estimate of the strength of human nature, as well as repugnant to the voice and authority of the moral law itself, St. Paul opposed the most unremitting and particular re

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