ePub 版

of England translators of the English official translation of the Bible have filled up: they have taken it in hand,—this bantling of Paul's,--and christened it Antichrist. He (Paul) showeth,” say they, ' a discovery of Antichrist, before the day of the Lord came," p. 293. That we may clearly comprehend this charge, let us state it in fewer words. Paul taught his converts at Thessalonica that the end of the world was at hand; this doctrine produced evils which he did not foresee. He was therefore under the necessity of revoking or modifying it'; and he sends to the same people a second letter, in which he virtually acknowledges that he was somewhat too hasty in saying that Jesus would soon come ; for a certain something called Antichrist must come first. This is Gamaliel Smith's statement, to which I proceed briefly to reply. The speedy return of Christ was a notion very favourable to the Gnostics, who sought to overthrow Christianity. They wished to bring the predictions of Jesus into discredit by first exciting false hopes, and then disappointing them. Our Lord had predicted that his coming to punish the Jews would be sudden, unexpected, and attended with circumstances of great terror. By sounding this alarm before it actually arrived, the impostors hoped to take away the converts from their daily pursuits, and to profit in the confusion which they occasioned.

The Epistle to the Thessalonians was written very soon after the establishment of that church by the Apostle; and if we examine it in this view, we shall clearly perceive that the Gnostic system was there yet unknown. The reason is obvious; the authors of it had not sufficient time to execute their purpose. But not many days had elapsed before their emissaries appeared among the Christians; and the immediate consequence was a second Epistle from Paul to that church. The language of the writer in the first Epistle respecting the coming of Christ, appears to have been a convenient subject for misrepresentation ; and the Gnostics did not fail to turn it to their own advantage. So depraved were those men that they felt themselves bound by no restraint of honour or of truth; and so blind or callous were they that, if they could deceive for a moment, they cared not for the infamy of subsequent exposure. Though detection, and immediate detection was inevitable, they forged å letter in the name of James to the converts at Antioch. From 2 Cor. iii; 1. it appears that the same men, or their fellow agents, sent to the church at Corinth with a letter of recommendation as if written by Paul, in which they were spoken of as worthy the notice and confidence of that church. “Do we begin again to commend ourselves, or do we need, AS SOME, a letter of recommendation to you, or of recommendation from you?” The poignancy of these questions consisted in the fact, well known to the Corinthians, that the impostors, to whom he alluded, did come among them by means of false letters. On joining the Christians at Thessalonica, they committed a similar fraud; having produced a letter as if from Paul, in which it was asserted that the day of the Lord was at hand. A notice of the forgery was, it seems, immediately sent to the Apostle ; and the consequence was, that he wrote a second letter, in which he sets that doctrine aside as false, and guards the Christians against the artifices of those men who sought to deceive them.. " Now we entreat you, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our being gathered unto him, that ye be not shaken from your understanding, nor alarmed, neither by any prediction, nor any discourse, NOR ANY LETTER AS IF FROM US, that the day of the Lord is at hand. Let no one deceive you by any means : for that day will not not come, unless there come a falling away first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of destruction; who opposeth and exalteth himself above every one that is called divine or venerable : so that he seateth himself in the temple of God, showing himself to be a god."" Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things ?”? 2 Thess. i. 1.

· Here it is unequivocally implied, that some person who had joined the converts endeavoured to deceive them; that the object, in regard to which he sought to deceive them, was, that the second coming of Christ was at hand, and that the means by which he tried to deceive them, was a forged letter ascribed to the Apostle. The Jews residing at Thessalonica who became converts, were anxious to know if Christ would soon appear. The Apostle, as we are assured by himself in this place, told them, when he was yet with them, that Jesus before his death foretold that an antichristian system would spring up, prevail, and, causing a general apostasy, would be completely established; but that in a series of ages, God in his providence would cause it to be destroyed, and that after its complete overthrow by the universal diffusion of the Gospel, Christ would then, and not till then, come to raise the dead and erect on earth the kingdom of God. Immediately after the resurrection of Christ, a system of this sort was actually formed, the very basis of which was a direct opposition to God, the creator and governor of the world. By means of emissaries it spread, as Paul himself says, “ like a gangrene;" and its introduction into the several churches became the instrument in the hands of God, to call forth the epistles of Paul. To the same cause the second epistle to the Thessalonians owed its origin; and it was natural that the writer, when now cautioning the believers against the leaders of antichrist, should describe its prevalence and final destruction, as he and the other Apostles had been instructed by their divine master. The train of his ideas was to this effect: “Believe not these deceivers, who tell you from sinister purposes that the day of the Lord is at hand. The system which they now introduce among you will every where prevail; and it is not till its complete destruction after a lapse of ages, that the Saviour will appear.” The first Epistle to the Thessalonians, I have observed, was the very first written by the Apostle, and he concludes it with no other mark than his signature: but he soon found what use wicked men would make of his name; and having from experience learnt the necessity of some precaution, 'he thus concludes his second letter : “ The salutation is by the hand of me Paul, which is my mark in every epistle“ thus I write, THE FAVOUR OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST BE WITH YOU ALL!

Now the question is, how a mark of this kind could secure this or any other letter of Paul from forgery or imitation: The doctrine taught by the impostors furnishes the true answer to this question. They maintained that the Christ was a God different from the man Jesus; and though they extolled him as divine, they denied his claim as their Lord to be obeyed and imitated by them. The mark lay in the sentiment, which the impostors would not avow, and not in the writing, which they could as easily imitate as any other writing of the Apostle. Here then we have a remarkable and decisive fact. The wisdom of Providence has so ordained it, that the very signature, which established the authenticity of the Epistles of Paul with the churches to which at the time they were addressed, should become a pledge to us and to all ages and nations, that those Epistles were written in opposition to men who taught the divinity of Christ, as the means of subverting his Gosp, that is, in opposition to antichrist.

The prediction which Jesus gave to his Apostles was to this effect-that before the close of the Jewish dispensation, or, according to the language of the times, is the end of the age or of the world,” many false prophets would rise and cause a very great apostasy even among the faithful followers of Christ; that from that period, namely, the destruction of the temple, the reign

[ocr errors]


of antichrist was to commence, and to continue till all the antichristian kingdoms of the world should be shaken to pieces, and these convulsions are to be followed by the coming of the son of man : see Matt. xxiv. 24–32. This prediction, as delivered first by Christ, and afterwards repeated by Paul, is wrapped up in strong figurative language, partly to avoid the jealousy of the Roman power, which was to be the chief instrument in the hands of Providence in bringing on and finally establishing antichrist, by the establishment of Christianity, now embodied with heathenism, as the religion of the state. John, who wrote near the destruction of the Jewish state, understood the matter precisely in this light, namely, that antichrist would begin when the Jewish state should end. “Little children, the last hour (that is, the close of the Jewish dispensation) is come; and as ye heard that antichrist is coming, even now there are many antichrists, whence we know that the last hour is come.” 1 Epist. ii. 18.

Let us hear next what Peter says on this subject. His language, while it confirms Paul, supplies a remarkable commentary on the words of Jesus.-" And there shall arise false Christs and false teachers, who shall give great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Matt. xxiv, 24. This prediction is thus repeated by Peter :-“Now there will be false teachers among you, who will cunningly introduce destructive doctrines, and, by denying the Lord who bought them, will bring upon themselves speedy ruin. And many will follow their impurities, through whom the way of truth will be evil spoken of, and through greediness will they make gain of you with feigned doctrines.” 2 Pet. ii. 1, 2. Again, our Lord predicted the dissolution of all earthly kingdoms, of all human establishments, prior to his coming, under the figures of the sun darkened, of the moon not giving her light, of the stars falling from heaven, and the powers of the heaven shaken, Matt. xxiv. 29. And the figurative language which our Lord uses

« 上一頁繼續 »