« הקודםהמשך »
are worthy of the smallest credit; but to assert, that, even if they be all as true as we believe them false, they do not, nevertheless, in the remotest degree touch the credibility of the fact of these persons having had exhibited in them the power of the Holy Ghost.
Among the sneers which have been thrown out upon this subject, one is, that all which is called miraculous is only the result of over-heated imaginations, consequent upon the system of Divine truth which is preached by Mr. Campbell of the Row. We, however, can find no necessary connexion between the display of the gifts of the Holy Ghost and the doctrines of Mr. Campbell : but if there be this connexion ; if the persons who have embraced the opinions of Mr. Campbell are honoured by having displayed in them the power of God; then is it a strong evidence in favour of those doctrines, and a strong condemnation of those doctors who have attempted to write him down, and are now threatening him with ecclesiastical censures.
Again : it is said that the sole end for which miracles were worked, both in the Old and New Testament, was to testify that the persons who worked them were sent by God. This assertion, however, shews very little acquaintance with the facts; for, in the first place, it is impossible by this rule to account for many of the miracles performed by Elijah, Elisha, and others; and, in the second place, we have already seen that such end is not once propounded as the object in the three chapters of the Epistle to the Corinthians which have been examined above.
The more we reflect upon the actual state of men's minds upon the subject of religion, the more are we satisfied of the incompetence of mere words and arguments to convince them. No one can have read the works which deny the real humanity of our blessed Lord, without perceiving that the writers had lost the faculty of understanding the obvious meaning of plain words : as, for instance, when it is said by one of the fathers that the Son of God assumed the nature which had sinned, in order that he might destroy sin in it, they stoutly deny that the father declares the nature assumed had any sin in it to be destroyed. To argue with such persons is as complete waste of time as to argue with natural born idiots. If, therefore, the period be not actually arrived, it is at least fast approaching, when it will be as necessary for the Holy Ghost to make himself manifest to God's children by visible signs, as it was in the first ages of Christianity. The Bible, in which they have trusted as all sufficient, and placed above the living church, is become useless to men who will maintain that Christ died only as a ransom for a few, although the Book declares he gave himself
VOL. II.-NO. III.
for all; or that God loves only a few of mankind, although the Bible declares that God is Love.
In these remarks we have abstained from pronouncing any decisive opinion, and have endeavoured rather to lay before the reader the grounds upon which a judgment should be formed, than to pass a definitive sentence ourselves. There is one point, however, which is very clear, namely, that even if the Holy Ghost were to exert his power in a manner as striking as he did in the days of the Apostles, the majority of the religious world would reject the evidence. It is remarkable, that it is said of love, not of faith, that it" believeth all things :" but where a cold and heartless systematic Calvinism bas banished love from the hearts and tongues of its professors, there cannot exist any of that belief. Many letters have been shewn us—and the tone of the communications in the religious journals are in the same strainall of which evince, that, whatever may be the case with respect to the Christians of Port Glasgow, the writers of these accounts are in the gall of unchristian bitterness and bonds of iniquity. In every view of the question the subject is very awful; and we unfeignedly tremble for the man, let his profession be ever so high, who can treat it with scoffing, levity, or scorn.
THE ANTICHRIST, OR APOSTASY, OF 1830. The term Antichrist has come to have a laxity of interpretation which is prejudicial to the correct understanding of that which is revealed concerning it. It occurs only four times in the Sacred Scriptures, and these all in the Epistles of John. In 1 John ii. 18, et seq., we read, “Little children, it is the last time; and
have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us : for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” Here, then, we learn, that whatever may be intended by the term “antichrist,” it is not one single individual that is denoted, for there are "many:" and, moreover, that it signifies an apostasy—that is, something which emanates from those who were for a while of the same party and outward appearance as the Apostle John himself, and not from those who were never at any time brought within the bonds of the Gospel. “ Now ye,” the Apostle adds, "have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth; but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John ii. 20-22). The denial that God has a Son, and the evidence of such fact and relationship, are the points at issue between the church of Christ and the world. The proof rests mainly on receiving the answer to prayer to the Father in the name of the Son; which shews that these names are not mere empty sounds, but real persons joined in the governance of the world. The Apostle exhorts them to "continue in the Son and in the Father,” that they may “not be ashamed before him at his coming” (εν τη παρουσια αυτο).
The next passage is 1 John iv. 1-3: “ Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in flesh, is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in Alesh, is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” The characteristic of antichrist here, is that it denies that the Son of God became flesh of the substance of Mary; asserting that he took some better kind of flesh, incorruptible flesh, immortal flesh, &c.
The third and last passage is 2 John i. 7: “Many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is coming (EPXojevov) in flesh: this is the deceiver and the antichrist.” Another form of antichrist is, to deny that the Messiah is coming again in flesh ; asserting that he is only coming in spirit. In the Epistles of Jude and Peter, the description of the last apostasy is given with far greater fulness. The first of these Apostles says,
“ There are certain men crept in unawares (Tapeloedvoav, by the side of, in the company of, true Christians), who were before of old ordained to this condemnation (apoyeγραμμενοι παλαι εις τοτο το κριμα, formerly written about with reference to this judgment), ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying that God and our Lord Jesus Christ is our only master” (και τον μονον δεσποτην
( θεον, και Κυριον ημων Ιησουν Χριστον αρνουμενοι), Jude i. 4. The expression, “ turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness,” can apply only to such as have known, and professed, the grace of God ; proving, therefore, that the men described are apostates : and, consequently, these are to be sought for, not amongst the unbaptized, nor amongst such of the baptized as do not profess the doctrine of the grace of God, but amongst those who, professing it, subvert it (uetatiDevtes.) “ By antichrist, alone can rationally be meant a power in the Christian church, which, in the name of Christ, and at once
pretending and usurping his authority, is systematically subversive of the essential and distinguishing characters and purposes of the Christian Church.” (Coleridge.) Moreover, the examples to which the Apostle refers as parallel instances, are all of persons who had experienced the special favour of God; and who, having been in a good estate, had come into a worse : such as, the fallen angels; the chosen people of God, who witnessed the miracles wrought for their deliverance, looked to the brazen serpent for recovery, had faith to walk through the bottom of the Red Sea, yet nevertheless wanted faith to enter into the promised land; and the people of Sodom, who had a merciful deliverance by Abraham, for Lot's sake, and who rejected notwithstanding the preaching of Lot.
Two proofs are furnished of this apostasy being the last: the one derived from its being that which Enoch declared the Lord would himself come to destroy ; and the other proof, from the members of it being called the mockers of the “ last time.”
Having, therefore, seen that it is an apostasy against which the Holy Ghost here warns us, and that it is the last apostasy, the only other point to examine is its nature. We have already observed that it subverts, or overthrows, the grace of God: the mode by which it does so is, by denying that God and our Lord Jesus Christ is the only Master. The word deomorns answers exactly to the Latin term pater familias, and to the word master” in English. Again, ihey are said to “despise dominion” (Kuprotnta, ver. 8.), and “to blaspheme dignities.” This language serves to remind us of the light in which God looks upon governments, lordships, and dignities, as being held under, and for the service of, and the representatives of, the one only Master and Lord, the Prince of the kings of the earth. The mocking of these apostates at the coming of the only Master and Lord, is a fruit of the same spirit which leads them to despise rulers and dignities, who are appointed by the only Head of all rule. They are also described as blaspheming about things which they do not understand. (And it is not only awful, but painful in the highest degree, to have the recollection forced upon us of those who rail in ignorance at the doctrines of the true humanity of our blessed Lord, at his coming in flesh to sit upon the throne of David, and at the manifestation of the power of the Holy Ghost in his church.) The things which they do understand, they are said to have learned, not by the Spirit of God, but (pvouws) by their natural understanding; and even these they corrupt "like brute beasts” (aloya Swa). We are, however, instructed not to pronounce a judgment of blasphemy upon them (ovk kploiv eneveykELV Baoonias) but to say, as Michael did to Satan, “ The Lord rebuke thee.”
They concentrate, as in one focus, “ the way of Cain ;'
error of Balaam ;” and “the gainsaying of Core.” The “ way of Cain” marks the murderous malignity of the passions by which this apostasy is actuated. The example of Balaam points to it as composed of persons instructed in the general truth, and purposes of God, who nevertheless hate, and would destroy if they could, those whom they know in their hearts to be right. The instance of Korah is very remarkable. He and his company were Levites; his confederates were of the tribe of Reuben, the first-born, to whom of right belonged the supremacy : they were in the whole “ two hundred and fifty princes, famous in the congregation, men of renown: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them; wherefore then lift
ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord ?” This is precisely the language that is made use of against all the ordinances of God's appointment to which men in the present day are required to submit. They say, they are “ all kings and priests unto God;" and hence reject all superiority of an authorized priesthood : they say, that to submit to the authority of a lawfully constitated hierarchy is to “rebel against God* ;” an argument analogous to saying that to obey a magistrate is to rebel against the king in whose name he acts. Others among them say that the ordinances are the dead letter, which they, who have the Spirit, live above, and can live without.
In verse 19, the members of this apostasy are described as separatists, and soulish men (Huxlkoi), translated in other places natural men, in opposition to having the Spirit. The contrary to these characters would be found in those who do not separate themselves; who reverence all authorities, and rulers, and dominions, in church and state ; who rejoice in the expectation of the coming of Him who is the head of all rule ; and who see, in all ordinances of God's appointment, Christ the Master; and who loathe, as blasphemy, the idea that the people are the source of power, either in ecclesiastical or civil affairs. These the Apostle exhorts to “ keep themselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life;” necessarily meaning the manifestation of that mercy which is yet future, and not the apprehension by faith of that which was past. This doctrine, once delivered to the saints,” he exhorts them to “ contend earnestly" for.
The connexion between the characters denounced in this Epistle of Jude, and those against whom the church is warned under the name of “false teachers,” in 2 Pet. ii., is marked not
* See the Speeches at the Religious Liberty Society, 1830.