« 上一頁繼續 »
the possibility, I will venture to say, of random writing to produce. I also assert, that it is in the highest degree improbable that it should have been the effect of contrivance and design. The imputation of design amounts to this, that the forger of the epistle to the Romans inserted in it the passage upon which our observations are founded, for the purpose of giving color to his forgery by the appearance of conformity with other writings which were then extant. I reply, in the first place, that, if he did this to countenance his forgery, he did it for the purpose of an argument which would not strike one reader in ten thousand. Coincidences so circuitous as this, answer not the ends of forgery-are seldom, I believe, attempted by it. In the second place I observe, that he must have had the Acts of the Apostles, and the two epistles to the Corinthians, before him at the time. In the Acts of the Apostles, (I mean that part of the Acts which relates to this period) he would have found the journey to Jerusalem; but nothing about the contribution. In the first epistle to the Corinthians he would have found a eontribution going on in Achaia for the Christians of Jerusalem, and a distant hint of the possibility of the journey; but nothing concerning a contribution. in Macedonia. In the second epistle to the Corinthians he would have found a contribution in Macedonia accompanying that in Achaia; but no intimation for whom either was intended, and not a word about the journey. It was only by a close and attentive collation of the three writings, that he could have picked out the circumstances, which he has united in his epistle; and by a still more nice examination, that he could have determined them to belong to the same period. In the third place I remark, what diminishes very much the suspicion of fraud, how aptly and connectedly the mention of the circumstances in question, viz. the journey to Jerusalem, and of the occasion of that journey, arises from the context. "Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you; for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company. But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints; for it has pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It has pleased them verily, and their debtors they are; for if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things. When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed them to this fruit, I will come by you into Spain." Is the passage in Italics like a passage foisted in for an extraneous purpose? Does it not arise from what goes before, by a junction as easy
as any example of writing upon real business can furnish? Could any thing be more natural than that St. Paul, in writing to the Romans, should speak of the time when he hoped to visit them; should mention the business which then detained him; and that he purposed to set forwards upon his journey to them, when that business was completed?'
Explanation of 1 Pet. iv. 17, 18.
'For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?' 1 Pet. iv. 17, 18.
THERE are few passages of Scripture on which the preachers of terror have placed greater reliance for producing an effect, especially during what have been termed periods of revival, than the one which stands at the head of this article. At almost every protracted meeting, of which we have had particular accounts, these words have been made the theme of either a sermon or exhortation, in which the powers of rhetoric have been exhausted in portraying the horrors of an endless bell, in a future state of existence, and in representing the extreme difficulty of escaping its pains. The evils attending this mode of interpreting Scripture-expressions have been great and numerous. Many, considering the great and almost. insurmountable difficulty of escaping hell, and the superhunan exertions necessary to obtain heaven, have been driven to despair, insanity, and suicide. Others, believing such principles derogatory to the character of God, and contradicted by all they can discover in nature and providence, yet supposing them to be taught in the Bible, have been induced to reject revelation altogether; and have become confirmed skeptics, or avowed infidels. While others, believing themselves included in the number of the favored few, who will ultimately obtain the salvation of God, have been filled with spiritual pride and self-righteousness.
It is too ofter the case with professing Christians, that they first embrace a creed, on the authority of others, and then search the Scriptures for evidence to support it, instead of adopting their religious sentiments from a firm conviction of their truth, founded on direct evidence drawn from divine revelation. Whenever this is the case with an individual, arguments, however clear and cogent they may be, are generally unavailing; and it is believed there are many who, through the influence of early education and prepossessions, can with difficulty arrive at a correct conception of the import of the inspired writings; especially when the true signification militates against formerly received and long cherished opinions. To such, however, and to all others who are sincerely desirous of ascertaining what truths are taught in the Scriptures, candid and intelligible expositions of particular passages may be instructive, and highly useful; and it is believed that a careful attention to the language of the apostle, will enable us to arrive at such an exposition of the passage we have proposed, as will be satisfactory.
1. We shall endeavor to ascertain what is to be understood by the house of God,' at which judgment was to begin. By consulting the context, we find the apostle was speaking of the sufferings the Christians were enduring, and the still greater sufferings which were coming on them from the machinations of their enemies. He endeavored to fortify their minds with unshaken confidence in God, against the period of their approaching trials. Hence, commencing at ver. 12, he says,
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you; on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.' In view of their present condition, and of their approaching sufferings, the apostle next proceeds to give them more particular directions for their conduct ver. 15, ' But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil-dcer, or as a busy-body in other men's matters. Yet, if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.' Then follows the passage under consideration: For the time is come
that judgment must begin at the house of God; and if it first begin at us, (Christians) what shall the end be of them that obey not God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear??
From the above it is apparent, that the apostle spoke of believers as the house of God'; and this view of the subject is confirmed by other language of the same writer, as well as of St. Paul: Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.' And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; but Christ, as a son, over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.' 2 Believers are also called 'the household of faith,' and 'household of God.' These, and other expressions, which might be cited, are sufficient to show that, by the house of God," at which judgment was to begin, we are to understand the church, or believers in Christ.
2. What judgment was to begin at the house of God? The term judgment is used, according to Cruden, in no less than nineteen different senses in the Scriptures. Of these, we select the two following, one or both of which may be considered applicable to the passage under consideration : 1. "Those afflictions and chastisements which God brings upon his children for their trial and instruction.' 2. Those remarkable punishments which God inflicts upon people for their sins and trangressions. Great tribulations, in which the Christians were deeply to participate, were predicted by our Saviour; and he expressly informed them that except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved.' He also pointed out to them some of the particular afflictions they should endure: Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all men for niy name's sake.' 5 They shall put you out of the synagogues; yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doeth God service.' & In these passages it is obvious that Christ alluded to temporal afflictions, and temporal salvation; and as the time for the perfect accomplishment of these
3 Gal. vi. 10.
* Eph. ii. 19.
11 Pet. ii. 5. 5 Matt, xxiv. 9.
2 Heb. iii. 5, 6.
predictions was drawing near, and the trials foretold by him. were already endured, in part, by the Christians at the time the apostle wrote, we readily discover the propriety of the expression, For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.' This judgment, as an affliction or chastisement, was now about to begin; and the Christians, severe as their afflictions had already been, were about to endure greater trials than had as yet befallen them, even fiery trials, in consequence of which many would forsake the faith of the gospel, turn back to the weak and beggarly elements of the world,' and, in the approaching judgment, suffer as murderers, thieves, and evil-doers. If then, such were to be the sufferings of those who obeyed the commands of Jesus, and lived in conformity with the principles of the gospel, well might the apostle represent the judgment or punishment, which would soon overtake the disobedient and unbelieving Jews, as altogether more severe and overwhelming. We therefore conclude that the judgment of which the apostle forewarned his brethren, as being about to begin at the house of God,' consisted in those afflictions for the trial of their faith, and those parental chastisements which were then coming upon them; and which, extending to their disobedient and unprincipled persecutors, should become tremendous punishments, or retributions for their multiplied sins and long-continued transgres
In further illustration of the above position, it may be observed that it was a Jewish maxim, that, when God was about to inflict some general and signal judgment, he began by afflicting his own people, in order to correct and amend them; that they might be prepared for the overflowing scourge. In the writings of one of their Rabbins it is said, 'God never punishes the world but because of the wicked; but he always begins with the righteous first. The destroyer makes no difference between the just and unjust; only he begins first with the righteous.' This sentiment is supposed to be sanctioned by the language of the prophet, when he represents the destroyers as having received a command to go through the city of Jerusalem, slaying old and young, both maids, and little children, and women;' but to begin at the sanctuary of God.
3. Having shown what is to be understood by the house of
7 Dr. A. Clarke, Com. in loco.
8 Ezek. ix. 1-7.