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in this place points out the latitude with which we are to interpret the following words of the Apostle : 16. The present heavens and earth are treasured up by the same appointment for fire, and reserved against a day of trial and condemnation of these ungodly men. For that day of the Lord will come as a thjef by night (alluding to what our Lord says in Matt. xxiv. 43.), when the heavens will pass away with loud noise, and the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and the works that are therein will be burnt up. As all these things therefore are to be destroyed, what sort of persons ought you to be? In a course of holiness and piety, you ought to expect and to hasten the coming day of God, in which the heavens will be destroyed by fire, and the elements will melt away with heat ; but we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” This language, strong and expressive as it is, may be interpreted from the words of Jesus, on which it is grounded, as meaning no more than that all institutions and communities, the tendency of which is to oppose or to retard truth and virtue, shall be entirely destroyed or thoroughly purified; that these changes will be accompanied with violent commotions, and a terrible destruction of the human species, especially of the wicked; and that finally a glorious order of things, more consonant to the perfections of God, and more subservient to the improvement and happiness of man, shall in the room be established.
Our Lord solemnly assured his disciples that they shall see the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” The impostors wished it to be believed at first that this event was soon to take place, in order to discredit the prediction by exciting false expectation. But when a number of years had elapsed, they changed their tone, and scoffed at the promise, as if the time of its fulfillment had already passed. Hence Peter, 2 Epist iii. says, “I am now writing, be
loved, the second of my letters to you ; in both which I endeavour to stir up your uncorrupted thoughts to remembrance, that ye should call to mind the declarations formerly made by the prophets, and the commandment of our Lord and Saviour delivered by the Apostles; attending to this especially, that in these last days scoffers will come, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming ? Now let not this one thing escape your notice, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow with his promise, as some men account it slowness; but is patient for your sakes, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Pet. iii. 1-10. The words of the scoffers, The Lord is slow with his promise, sarcastically allude to the parable of the ten virgins, in which it is said that the bridegroom tarried and the foolish virgins slumbered and slept. Their meaning was, “ The Lord has forgotten his engagement or has fallen asleep.” Considered in reference to such insulting taunts, the language of Peter has much force and keenness. As if he had said, “If the son of man be slow to keep his promise, the ruin which these men by their impurities bring on themselves will be sufficiently speedy: if the bridegroom Joiters or slumbers, their punishment doth not loiter, their destruction doth not slumber. It is true he hath directed our attention to a day when he shall come; but you
should bear in mind at the same time that what appears as a thousand years to us, is with the Lord as one day. He does not therefore delay, because he hesitates to fulfill his promise, as some men pretend; but that all, having an opportunity to repent, might at his coming share in his salvation. As he may be said to wait for you and the world, to become ready for his reception you ought by timely repentance and reformation to hasten his appearance.”
Peter then concludes :-“Wherefore, beloved, under this expectation, endeavour earnestly to be found by him in peace, without spot or blemish. And account this delay of our Lord to be his patience for your salvation : as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote to you; and indeed in all his letters speaking in them on this subject, which has something in them hard to be understood; and these the unwise and the unstable distort, as also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.” 2 Pet. iii. 14-17. The subject on which Peter is here writing, is the destruction of the Jewish state, the prevalence of antichrist, and the second coming of our Saviour scoffed at by the impostors. This same subject it seems had been discussed by Paul in one of his letters. This could be no other than his letters to the Thessalonians, where he opposes certain false teachers who then taught that the coming of Christ was at hand. There he asserts that Christ will not appear unless antichrist is first established. This supposes that ages must elapse before that happy consummation of things will take place : and Peter bids his brethren remember that “a thousand years with God is as one day." The account which Paul gives of the antichristian system, opposing itself to God and seating itself in the temple, is very obscure, and perhaps designedly so, as alluding to the Roman power : and this is probably one of the obscurities to which Peter refers us when he says that Paul's letters have in them somewhat hard to be understood.” But what is most worthy of our notice is, that the impostors made the unguarded language of the Apostle in the first letter a cloak for forging another in his name, directly asserting that the coming of Christ was near. This characteristic circumstance is thus noticed and attested by Peter : “ And them the unwise and the unstable wrest or torture, otgenours, to their own destruction."
Page 10. Campbell takes AUTOTTA, eye-witnesses, as standing in opposition to muīv, to us ; and therefore understands Luke as intimating, that he was not in the number of the “ eye-witnesses,” but of the persons to whom they delivered their account of Jesus. But this learned translator has mistaken the intended contrast. The Apostles as ministers and eye-witnesses stand opposed to nodos, many, meaning the persons who undertook to give a history of Jesus Christ; and who had been neither ministers por eye-witnesses of the things which they had undertaken to relate. Being thus disqualified, their narratives were not calculated to satisfy men who, like Theophilus, wished to know the truth.
Page 28. The system of the Gnostics was founded in three principles; one was their rejection of the Creator as the supreme God and benevolent Father of mankind; the second was their rejection of the man Jesus, while they pretend to receive the Christ who was a God within him; the third was, that Christ did not come from the Almighty with a commission to save the world on the terms of repentance and reformation, but that he came to destroy the works of the Creator, and to authorize his followers to continue in the indulgence of their favourite sins. These impious sentiments, while they are attested by the Greek and Latin fathers, are obyiously alluded to in the Apostolic writings, see Jude iv. 1. John ii. 22. They gave various names to the supreme God, which they pretended to reveal, such as, Propater, Proarche, Bythos or Bathos, the depth. To this John alludes in Rev. ii. 24., as well as Paul in Rom. viii. 39. This chief divinity they coupled with a female called Sige. This pair gave birth to another, called Nous and Aletheia. These again uniting begot Logos and Zoe, who in their turn produced Anthropos and Ecclesia. Hence finally arose the Æones or angels, or the boundless genealogies to which Paul alludes in 1 Tim. i. 4. see Iren. p. 7, 8. These fictions, Origen, in his answer to Celsus, p. 294, thus characterizes : “ Celsus ought to know that there exist those, who having espoused the cause of the Serpent (ops) are called (opiavou) Serpentists. Their fictions exceed the fictions of the Titans and the Giants." These men being Egyptians, pretended, that the Christ or the divinity in the man Jesus, was the same with Horus, or Serapis, or Pan; see Epiphanius, vol. i. 171. Iren. p. 17, 18. The Egyptians had their elder and younger Horus ; hence the impostors had two Christs, one of the old, the other of the new dispensation. Duos quidem Deos ausos esse hæreticos dicere et duos Christos audivimus : Origen asga Agxwv, lib. ii. c. 7. The same learned writer thus bears testimony to the manner in which they cursed the Lord Jesus, while they pretended to honour the divinity within him. “ They vilify Jesus no less than Celsus; nor do they admit any one into their society, unless he
rst deposit curses upon Jesus.". Contra Cels. 294. This doctrine was taught by the impostors at Corinth. To this, as we have seen, Paul pointedly alludes in 1 Cor. xii. 3., and also at the end. It is with much truth and propriety, that the following assertion is made in the interpolated letter to the Trallians. c. 6.
They (the heretics) speak of Christ, not that they might preach Christ, but that they might supersede him; and