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to establish their authenticity universally, by his own acknowledgment. Besides, being written to private individuals, we may suppose they remained some time concealed in their possession, and did not come abroad so as to occasion much enquiry concerning them, whilst the apostle was alive.—This, I suppose, was the reason that the second and third epistles of John, were doubted of by many in the early ages; whilst the first was received universally as his, immediately on its publication.
Sect. V. Of the Perfo's for whose Use the First Epistle of John
Lardner, Can. vol. 3. p. 273. faith of this epistle, “ As the “ writer does not at the beginning prefix his name, nor any « where else mention it in the epistle; so neither does he . “ describe, or characterize the persons to whom he writes, by “ the name of their city, or country, or any such thing.”
Augustine, Caffiodorius, and Bede, inform us, that the first epistle of John was anciently called, the epistle to the Parthians : as if it had been written to the Jewish believers in the country of Parthia ; which Eftius faith lay between the Tigris and the Indies. For in that country, as Josephus informs us Antiq. lib. xxiii. c. 12. there were many Jews, of whom, it is probable, some were converted to Christianity. For Luke, speaking of the Jews, who came to Jerusalem to worship at the feast of Pentecost, which immediately followed our Lord's ascension, and who heard the apostles preach after the Holy Ghost had fallen on them, mentions first of all, Parthians.
Eftius, following the tradition preserved by Augustine, was of opinion, that as Peter wrote his epistle to the strangers of the difperfion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, so John wrote his firit epistle to the strangers of the dispersion in Parthia, and the neighbouring countries; and to persons of all ages in these countries, as he himself testifies, chap. ii. 13. 14. 18. because he had a concern for the salvation of all.
Whiston, in his commentary on John's epistles, faith, “None " of these three epistles of St. John were written to the Par
" thians, as some later Latin writers have supposed : but rather “ to the Christians or churches of Asia near Ephesus.” This opinion he supports, “by the perfect filence of all true anti“ quity, as to St. John's ever preaching in Parthia ; and from " the account which we have in Eusebius from Origen, that “ Parthia was St. Thomas's province, and Alia St. John's : As “ also from the account in the Recognitions ix. 29. That “ Thomas really preached the gospel in Parthia, without a fyl“ lable of St. John, thereto relating. All which,” says he, “ makes it plain, that this pretended direction of any of St.
John's epistles to the Parthians, stands on no good authority « at all. And it is not improbable, that the occasion of this
error, was barely a false reading in some ancient manuscripts, “ where apos nap98s, to the Parthians, was read for aap Tevés, “ to the virgins : which latter inscription might easily be applied “ to the first epistle. For as it is chiefly addressed to young “ Christians, yet uncorrupted both as to flcshly and to fpiritual “ fornication, such as in St. John's revelations are called “ Taptevov, virgins : so was the second epistle, anciently affirmed « by some to be written to the virgins : as we learn from Cle“ ment of Alexandria in Cassiodorius,” that is, as Lardner observes, from Clement's Adumbrations on the Catholic epistles, translated by order of Cassiodorius. But as L'Enfant hath remarked, there is nothing in the second epistle which suits vir. gins, more than other Christians.
Oecumenius, in his comment upon the last verse of this epistle, says it was written to the whole church in general. And in the proem to his commentary upon the second epistle, he calls the first a catholic epistle; and says, “ That epistle is not writ“ ten to a certain person, nor to the churches of one or more « places, as the bleffed Peter's to the Jews in their difperfion;
nor as James, before him, to the twelve tribes of the Jewish “ people.—But he writes to all the faithful in general, whether “ assembled together, or not; for which reason there is no in“ scription to that epistle, as there is to the other two." " To “ me, therefore,” said Lardner," it seems that this epistle was " designed for the churches of Asia, under St. John's inspection
rs and for all other Christians into whose hands it should " come.”--Lampe says, “ We easily admit that Jewish be« lievers are specially regarded in this epistle. Nevertheless,
we think that St. John directed it to all believers of his time, « in general ; forasmuch as there appears not in it, any expref“ fion of limitation."--Nevertheless, chap. ii. 2. He is the propitia'ion for our fins, and not for ours only, but even for those of the whole world, seems to intimate, that this epistle was intended chiefly, though not exclusively, for the Jewish believers in Judea and the neighbouring countries. To this opinion Oecumenius likewise inclines ; for in his note on chap. ii. 2. be thus writes, “ This John said, either because he wrote to Jews, os and intended to fhew that the benefit of repentance was not of restrained to them, but extended to Gentiles also; or else, o that the promise was not made to the men of that time only, 66 but likewise to all in future times."
CHAP. CHAP. I.
View and Illustration of the Matters contained in this Chapter.
Tis remarkable, that the apostle begins this epistle, with a
calls antichrists, but who were named by the ancient fathers Docete, because, as was observed, pref. fect. 3. they affirmed that Christ had not come in the flesh, and that the things which were related concerning him by the evangelists, were not really done and suffered by him, but were transacted in appearance only. For he assures us, that the evangelists and apostles testified to the world, nothing concerning the life of the word in the flesh, but what they had heard with their ears, and seen with their eyes, and handled with their hands; founding their attestation on the evidence of their own senses, ver. 1.--So that the apostles, who accompanied the word during his abode on earth, bare witness to his life in the flesh, as it was plainly manifested to their senses, ver. 2.-And, that they declared these incontestable facts to the world, that all who received them, might have fellowship with the apostles, through their believing the truth. This he told them, would be a great honour to them, because the apostle's fellowship was with the Father of the universe, and with his Son Jesus Christ, ver. 3.- John mentioned the honourableness of being in the fellowship of the Father and of his Son Jesus, because the heathens boasted to the believing Jews and Gentiles, of the honour which they derived from their fellowship in the Eleusinian and other mysteries. But these were far inferior to the Christian fellowship in this respect, that the heathen gods, the supposed heads of the heathen fellowThips, were mere non-entities, 1 Cor. viii. 4. Or if any of them were real beings, they had no power in the affairs of the world. Whereas the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, the heads of the Chriftian fellowship, governed the whole affairs of the universe without controul. These things concerning the heads of the Christian fellowship, the apostle told them, he wrote that their joy in being members of such an honourable and powerfully protected fellowship, might be complete, ver. 4. - Further, that the believing Jews and Gentiles might know the advantages also which they enjoyed in the Christian fellowship, he told them, This is the meflage which we apostles have received from Christ, and which we declare to you the initiated into our fellowship, That God is light, and in him is no darkness at all; He is goodness and truth, without any mixture of evil or error.
Wherefore, 66 and for all other Christians into whose hands it should " come.”--Lampe says, “ We easily admit that Jewish be« lievers are specially regarded in this epistle. Nevertheless, a we think that St. John directed it to all believers of his time, o in general; forasmuch as there appears not in it, any expref“ fion of limitation."--Nevertheless, chap. ii. 2.
He is the propitiation for our firs, and not for ours orily, but even for those of the whole world, seems to intimate, that this epistle was intended chiefly, though not exclusively, for the Jewish believers in Judea and the neighbouring countries. To this opinion Oecumenius likewise inclines ; for in his note on chap. ii. 2. be thus writes, “ This John said, either because he wrote to Jews, "s and intended to thew that the refit of repentance was not of restrained to them, but extended to Gentiles also; or else, « that the promise was not made to the men of that time only, 66 but likewise to all in future times."