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who affirmed that Chrift was a mere man engendered of Joseph ; which was precisely the opinion of the proper Ebionites. Now if the Ebionæan doctrine concerning the person of Chrift, was esteemed by the church heretical so early as in the time of Irenæus, it could neither be the doctrine of the apostles nor of the first Christians.-Upon the whole, the argument of the Socinians to prove that both the apostles and the first Christians were Unitarians, taken from the members of the church of Jerusalem being called Ebionites by the aneients, is by no means conclusive.
Besides the heretics above mentioned, there was a third fort who troubled the church in the apostle's days, named Nicolaitans, Rev. ii. 15. These, the ancient Christian writers called Gnoftics ; because, misunderstanding our Lord's words, John xvii. 3. This is the life eternal, that they might know thee thé only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast fent, they affirmed that nothing was necessary to eternal life, but the knowledge of the true God and of his Son Jesus Christ. With them, therefore, knowledge was the highest, and indeed the only Chriftiau virtue ; and therefore, whoever pofTeffed the knowledge of God and of Christ, was fure of salvation, whatever his character and actions might be. Farther, because the apostle Paul, in his epistles, had taught the doctrine of justification by faith without works of law, these heretics affirmed, that Christ had set men free from the obligation of the law of God as a rule of life ; consequently that in the gospel dispensation believers being under no law whatever, they linned not by any thing they did, however contrary it might be to the laws, whether of God or of men. According to them, the only thing incumbent on believers, in order to their obtaining eternal life, was to abide in Chrift; by which they meant, abiding in the knowledge and profession of the gospel. This impious doctrine, the Nicolaitans anxiously propagated, for the purpose of alluring wicked men to become their disciples, that they might draw money from them, which they spent in gratifying their lusts. Accordingly our Lord, in his epistle to the church of Purgamos, Rev. ii. 14. represents the Nicolaitans as holding the doctrine of Balaan, who, (as Peter expresses it, 2 Pet. ii. 15. loving the hire of unrighteoufne's), taught
Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things facrificed to idols, and to commit whoredom.---Farther, because these ungodly teachers, whilst they inculcated the most immoral doctrines, pretended to be inspired, our Lord gave them the name of Jezabel Ahab's wife, who, being addicted to forcery and divinatiun, was a great favourer of the prophets of 'Baal. Perhaps also the Nicolaitans, to gain the reputation of inspired teachers, imitated the prophets of Baal in their extasies.-Our Lord's condemnation of the doctrines and practices of these impostors, we have in the following paffage, Rev. ii. 20. Thou sufferest that woman Jezabel, who calleth her. self a prophetess, to teach, and to deceive my servants to commit wboredom, and to eat things facrificed to idols.-Concerning this class of false teachers, it is proper to remark that their error, did not consist in denying the effential difference between moral good and evil, but in affirming, that Christ having purchased for his people an absolute freedom from the laws both of God and men, they were not bound by any rules of morality, but were at liberty to do what they pleased; so that being incapable of finning they were not subject to punishment. This doctrine leading its abettors to all manner of licentiousness, our Lord had good reason to say of the Nicolaitans, Rev. ii. 6. that he hated their deeds; and also their doctrine, ver. 15.
The licentious doctrines and abominable practices of the Nicolaitans, being adapted to the corrupt inclinations of the wic. ked, were eagerly embraced by many, in the latter part of the apostle John's days. He, therefore, judged it necessary in this epistle, to condemn these doctrines and practices, in the plainest and strongett terms. See chap. i. 8.-10. ii. 1.-3. iii. 4.For a more particular account of the Gnostics, taken from Mosheim, see pref. to the Coloff. fect. 2. paragr. 3. from the end.
Sect. IV. Of the Time when, and the Place where, John wrote
bis First Epiftle.
Grotius, Hammond, Whitby, and Benson, think John wrote his first epistle before the destruction of Jerufalemn. Benson
fixes it to A. D. 68. answering to the 14th year of the emperor Nero, not long before the destruction of Jerusalem. This opinion he founds on chap. ii. 18. where the apoftle says, young children it is the last hour ; by which Benson understands, the last hour of the duration of the Jewish church and state. Lampe, who supposed this epistle was' written after the destruction of Jerusalem, thought the apostle might say, It is the last hour, not only before, but after Jerusalem was destroyed. -Wall in his note on these words, after mentioning that Grotius and Hammond interpreted them of the time immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened A. D. 69. adds, “ Nor are St. John's words, like those of any one who “ was foretelling that event, but rather of one who was speak“ ing of the present state of the Christian religion.” - The commentators who suppose this epistle was written before Jerusalem was destroyed, appeal likewise in support of their opinion to chap. ii. 13. Fathers, I write to you, because ye have known him from the beginning. For this, they think, could be faid only to persons who had seen and conversed with Christ; of which description there might be many alive, at the time Jerufalem was destroyed.
Other commentators assign a much later date to this epistle. Mill and Le Clerc place it A. D. 91. or 92.--Basnage A. D. 98.—Beausobre and L’Enfant in the end of the first century when John was very old : on which account, they think, he called himself in his second and third epistles, The Elder.Du Pin was of the fame opinion.—Whiston thought this and the other two epistles, were written A. D. 81. or 82.-Lampe places the first epistle after the Jewish war was ended, and before the apostle's exile into Patmos.-Lardner also places it after the Jewish war, A. D. 80. or later.
My opinion is, that John wrote his first epistle before the destruction of Jerusalem. ]. Because the expression, It is the last hour, may more naturally be understood of the last hour of the duration of the Jewish state, than of any later period; especially since the apostle adds, And as ye have heard that the antichrift cometh, so now there are many antichrists; whence we know that it is the last hour : plainly alluding to our Lord's VOL. VI.
predi&tion concerning the false teachers, who were to arise before the destruction of Jerusalem.-2. The expression, re have known him from the beginning, applies better to the disciples, immediately before Jerusalem was destroyed, than to the few who may have been alive at the late date assigned to this epistle. For thirty five years after our Lord's ascension, when Jerusalem was destroyed, there may have been many living, who had seen and conversed with him, during his ministry on earth. Whereas in the year 98. or even in 92. there could not be many alive, who were of that defcription.
In proof however of the late date of John's first epiftle, it is alleged, that the heretics who are said by the ancient fathers to have propagated the errors and practised the vices condemned in it, did not arise till after the destruction of Jerusalem. But, though it were true, that Basilides, Cerinthus and the rest, who are mentioned by the fathers as holding the errors, and following the vicious practices, condemned in this epistle, did not arise till after Jerusalem was destroyed, the errors and vices, for which they were infamous, certainly existed in the church before that catastrophe. For James speaks of them as prevalent in his time. See the preface to his epistle, sect. 4.
And John represents the false teachers, whom he terms antichrifts, as the very persons who were foretold by Christ to arise before Jerusalem was overthrown, i John ii. 18. I am, therefore, of opinion, that Bafilides and the rest were mentioned by the fathers, not because they were the authors of the heresies afcribed to them, but because they propagated them with great industry and success.
As we do not know the precise time when, so neither do we know, with any certainty, the place where John wrote his first epistle. Grotius thought it was written in Patmos, during the apostle's exile there, which he places before the deftruction of Jerusalem. But if it was written before that event, which I think is the truth, it is more reasonable to suppose, that it was penned in Judea, about the time the apostle observed the encompassing of Jerusalem with armies, and the other figns of its approaching destruction foretold by his master; which led himn to conclude that the last hour of the Jewish state was come,
and to write this letter, to prevent the Christians in Judea from being seduced, by the salse Christs and false teachers, who, according to our Lord's predi&tion, had arisen. If I am right in this conjecture, the persons addreffed in the second chapter under the denomination of little children, young men, and fathers, were the Christians of different standings in the church, who were living in Judea and the neighbouring countries, at that time, for whose salvation the apostle had the most anxious concern: especially as he speaks of the persons he calls fathers as having seen Christ. However, they were not the only perions for whom this epistle was intended. It was written for the benefit of Christians in general, to preserve them in the truth, and to prevent them from following the vicious practices of the false teachers, who had then arisen, or who might afterward arise. But of these things, more in the following section, where the opinions, both of the ancients and moderns, concerning the persons to whom John's first epistle was written, fhall be explained.
In this question, it is of some importance to observe, that if John wrote his first epistle in Judea, about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, and delivered it to the Christians living in that country, as I suppose he did, it will account for its being universaily received as his, in the first age, notwithstanding it appeared without any inscription, and did not bear his name in any part of it. For, as he lived among the people for whom it was more immediately intended; and delivered it to some of them personally, they must all have known it to be his.---Be fides, after he settled at Ephesus, he had frequent opportunities, during his long abode there, to acknowledge that epifle as his, in the presence of persons who enquired cor.cerning its authenticity, and who no doubt reported his acknowledgment to others. Thus the testimony of the brethren in Judea, to whom this epiftle was originally delivered, joined with the apostle's own acknowledgment, published in Asia by the Christians there, could not fail to establish its authenticity, in such a manner as to occasion its being univerfally received as his, before the apostle's decease.But the fecond and third epistles of John, being writ. ten in the latter part of his life, he did not furvive long enough,