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fulfilment: Even now, he says, there are many antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time. It seems therefore, as Origen thinks, not to imply any distinct claim or personification of Christ, but a false doctrine coming with pretension as being that of Christ, and arising out of a false exposition of Scripture, and occasionly developed in a particular person, such as Simon Magus, whom St. Hilary and others think this alludes to, who bewitched the Samaritans, giving out that himself was some great one, and leading them to believe him the great power of God. These false prophets are to come in sheep's clothing, that is, in the very garb of Him, who was dumb as a sheep before her shearers, although inwardly they are ravening wolves. This seems to indicate that they do not come with arrogant pretensions, until men's minds are, by false doctrine, prepared to receive them, but then they are to come in a manner quite opposite to our blessed Lord, having, as characterized by the prophet Daniel, a mouth speaking great things, giving it out, I am the Christ: whereas it does not appear that our Lord ever proclaimed, I am the Christ; but said that it was revealed by the Father unto babes: that the Father alone could draw men to the belief; that it was learnt by witnessing His works; it was that which proved the character
in mankind. It was the still small voice within, the voice of God, and not the voice that crieth in the streets. The loud claim is made by false doctrine. It may be observed that the coming of these false prophets is often repeated by our Lord, and referred to by His Apostles, as by St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. Jude, as the characteristic of the last times, and the point particularly mentioned is their exceeding deceivableness, the prophecy is ever accompanied with words of warning, such as beware, and take heed; that they shall lead many astray, is twice repeated in one chapter. Indeed it seems as if the word many was emphatically repeated in this prophecy; many shall come in my name; and afterwards in the same sentence, many false prophets shall arise, and, they shall deceive many, and the love of many shall wax cold. And the reason doubtless is that the gate of destruction is broad, and many there be who go in thereat; that many are called, but few chosen.”
Bruce says: “The lest any man deceive you, strikes the practical ethical keynote of the whole discourse: its aim not to gratify curiosity, but to guard against deception and terror-heads cool, hearts brave, in a tragic epoch. The first omen is the advent of pseudo-Messiahs. This is first mentioned quite naturally. Ruin of Jerusalem and the nation will come through revolt
against Rome, and the deepest cause of revolt will be the Messianic hope as popularly understood. Volcanic outbursts of Messianic fanaticism inevitable, all the more that they have rejected the true spiritual Christ, Josephus testifies that this was the chiefest incentive to war against Rome. The aim of the popular Messianic hope was independence, and all leaders of movements having that goal in view came in the name of Christs, whether they formally assumed that name or not. It is doubtful if any did before the destruction of Jerusalem.”
“Greswell,” says Canon Cook, "has called attention to the remarkable fact that, while many of these false Messiahs appeared in the interval between our Lord's ascension, and the Jewish war, there is no evidence that any one arose claiming this title, before the beginning of His ministry. It was necessary that the true Christ should first appear, and be rejected by the great body of the nation, before they were judicially given over to the delusions of false Christs."
First Thought.-Our Lord speaks as though He thought us in serious danger of being deceived. We do not fear it in most cases, either because we are unsuspicious, and do not look for any one trying to deceive us, or else because we have such confidence in our own grasp of
the truth that we deem it impossible we should be deceived. Both positions are dangerous, the first because the unsuspecting disciple lacks watchfulness, the second because the over-confident disciple is especially liable to attack. The tempter is ever ready to appeal to our desire for greater light, clearer understanding of the things which God has hidden from us in this life. So he appealed to Eve in the garden. But she would not have fallen had she not been willing to hearken to Satan after he had given God the lie. She knew very well that God had said, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” But the Evil One said, “Ye shall not surely die.” The moment we allow ourselves to question that which we very well know has been revealed by God, we give the adversary his opportunity.
He is just as subtle in these days, suggesting to every one who will hearken to him, that things are not so settled, and irrevocable, as the tradition of the Church declares them to be. There is new light now being thrown upon the facts of revelation, and the old beliefs are not adequate statements of the truth for these times. The moment the believer permits himself to question the inerrancy and the completeness of the divine revelation, as it has been handed down in the Church universal, he is in condi
tion to be easily deceived by the tempter. How then are we to guard ourselves, in obedience to our Lord's "Take heed lest any man deceive you”?
1. By stedfastly testing every new proposal as to sound belief and devout practice by the tradition of the Church universal, which has come down to us from Apostolic days.
2. By constantly questioning ourselves as to our loyal adhesion to every doctrine and practice which has so come down to us, with heartiest purpose of accepting and practising everything which manifestly belongs to the ancient tradition. We cannot well be deceived while we hold uncompromisingly to all that has been handed down to us.
Second Thought.—The Master represents the deceivers as luring men with the claim that they are, each one of them, the longed-for Messiah. Does not that plainly imply that the world is eager for Christ, and wants Him above all things, so eager that the quite unauthenticated claims of the false christs are unhesitatingly accepted ? Is it not good that men are so desirous of their Saviour? And if so why does the good God, Who will have all men to be saved, suffer the majority to be deceived by antichrists? Is it not because they do not want