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of falling away from their Christian profession; and also of the con sequences of resting merely upon the first principles of the doctrine of Christ. He also exhorts them to go on from one degree of Christian knowledge to another, and from one Christian grace to another, until they arrive to perfection. He accuses them of being "dull of hearing," of needing to be taught, whereas, their opportunities had been such, that they ought to have been teachers. See chap. 5: 11, 12. Hence, he exhorts them to leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ, and to go on unto perfection that is, leave these principles
or rudiments, as the school-boy leaves the first rudiments of his education, and commences the study of some higher branches, not to forget them, not to neglect them, but to make a wise use and improvement of them, and at the same time continue to rise higher, and still higher, in the scale of Christian knowledge and improvement. Now, if they rested upon the mere first principles of the doctrine of Christ, there was danger of their sinking down into a cold, lethargic state; of their resting contented where they were, and never making any effort to improve, either in knowledge or virtue; of their resting upon the mere forms and ceremonies of religion, and of their being contented with the letter, without the spirit, of Christianity. In this way they would, as did their fathers under the Legal dispensation, "lay again the foundation of repentance from dead works," and "of faith toward God”. that is, it would become necessary that their faith toward God should be renewed. Of the doctrine of baptisms"—that is, the washings and purifications under the Law. "And of laying on of hands." It is well known that the laying on of hands was a legal ceremony under the Law. "And of resurrection of the dead." For the confirmation of the truth of Judaism, and for the confirmation of the faith of the Jews in that religion, persons were raised from the dead, and other miracles were wrought under the Legal dispensation. "And of eternal judgment." The phrase translated eternal judgment here is krimatos aionion- that is, judgment of the age, or judgment of old. This is an allusion to those great temporal judgments, by which the
But under the reign of Hadrian the desperate fanaticism of the Jews filled up the measure of their calamities, and the Romans exercised the rights of victory with unusual rigor. A new city was founded on Mount Zion, privileged as a colony, and the Jewish Christians, or Nazarenes, by giving up their Jewish habits, enjoyed a free admission into the olony of Hadrian." -Gibbon's Rome, vol. 2, chap. 15, p. 66
Jewish religion was established. Now, if these Hebrew Christians rested upon the mere first principles of the doctrine of Christ, and the consequences should be as stated above, then it would require that they should be roused from their lethargy, indifference, and formality, by the same or similar ineans that God employed to rouse the Jews from their stupidity, under the Legal dispensation. Nothing is said in this text about judgment in a future state of existence, nor about a resurrection to immortal life. No. Paul alludes to circumstances and events which transpired under the Legal dispensation; and, under that dispensation, although some persons were raised from natural death to natural life, yet no person was raised to immortal life; nor was judgment ever executed upon any person living under that dispensation in a future world.
That the exposition we have given of this text is correct, we think is evident from the words which immediately follow it. "And this will we do if God permit; that is, leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ, and go on unto perfection. "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world (aionos) to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance." That is, as the connection shows, it is not in the power of man to renew such to repentance by any power of argument or persuasion he is possessed of. It can only be done by a similar display of God's power, as was exhibited in the miracles and judgments by which the Jewish religion was established, and by which the Jews, when they fell away from their profession of this religion, were brought to repentance, and their faith in God was renewed. We will close our remarks on this text with the follow
ing extract from Rev. James Peirce. He says: "The common interpretation makes this [the phrase eternal judgment] to refer to the final judgment. I think that the words are to be understood in a very different manner, and krima here seems to be put for temporal judgment. The word aionios, which we have rendered eternal, I take to respect not the time to come, but the time past, and to signify ancient, or past long ago. That the word is thus used without any respect to eternity, we may see Rom. 16: 25; 2 Tim. 1: 9; Titus 1: 2. See, also, those places in the LXX Psalm 77 5; Prov. 22: 28; Jer. 18: 15; Ezek
36: 2. According to this account of the words, we may consider the Jewish religion as established by the ancient and tremendous judgments, of the execution of which the books of Moses give an account, such as the deluge, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and, more especially, the drowning of Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, and perhaps the judgments of God upon the Israelites in the wilderness for their impenitence and unbelief." See Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles, &c., by the late Rev. and learned Mr. Jas. Peirce, of Exon., London, 1733.
14. 2 Peter 2: 17. These are wells without water, clouds that are car ried with a tempest, to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever.
Peter was speaking of certain false teachers, probably Judaizing teachers, who privily should introduce heresies into the Christian church, and overthrow the faith of some. He does not say that this "mist of darkness" was reserved for them in a future state of existence, nor that they should suffer this mist of darkness in a future world. On the contrary, he says they shall "bring upon themselves swift destruction."- See verse 1. Again he says, their "judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not."- See verse 3. Peter had heard the predictions of our Lord respecting the punishment which was reserved for the unbelieving Jews, and for false professors and false teachers; and he knew that that punishment, when he wrote, was nigh at hand; and to this he evidently alludes. If the banishment of the Jews from the land of Judea is called " everlasting punishment," without intending to signify that it is of endless duration, as we have shown to be the fact, with what propriety might the judicial blindness which came upon them be called the "mist of darkness forever!"
15. Jude 1: 6. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.
In examining this text, we will first compare it with its parallel in
2 Peter 2: 4. For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.
The first question to be considered is, Who or what were these angels? It has been supposed that they were holy and happy angels of God in heaven; but, in consequence of their rebelling
against God, after a tremendous conflict in the paradise above, they were thrust out of heaven, and confined in the manner related in these texts. But to this view of the subject we object as follows: 1. We are not authorized to believe in any such rebellion, and war, and fall of angels from heaven. The Bible gives us no account of this kind, and certainly we could know nothing about it except by divine revelation. It may be pretended, by some, that the book of Revelation furnishes such a history; but no respectable commentator on the Bible ever pretended that any such account is contained in the book of Revelation; and if not there, certainly it is nowhere else in the Bible. 2. To suppose that any such war ever happened in heaven, is to suppose that heaven is not that holy, happy place. that it is everywhere represented to be in the Bible. 3. If holy, happy angels in heaven could fall away, what security have we that mankind, when they get to heaven, will not do the same? Certainly, none at all; and hence to talk about any certainty of our endless happiness in heaven, is to give a false representation of the subject. 4. The word which is here rendered angels is defined, by all lexicon writers, to signify a messenger, one who brings news, a legate, an agent, the bishop or president of a church. It is, therefore, a name of office, and not of nature. We think it far more rational and scriptural to understand it here of human messengers, or agents, than of superhuman, or angels of God. 5. The epistle of Jude "is one of those books the genuineness of which was disputed in the primitive ages, and which, therefore, as Dr. Lardner well observes, ought not to be alleged as affording alone sufficient proof of any doctrine.' Grotius ascribes it to a bishop of Jerusalem, in the reign of Adrian; but it is commonly believed to have been written by Judas, otherwise called Lebbeus and Thaddeus, the son of Alpheus, the brother of James the less, and first cousin of our Lord. The design of the epistle is to guard its readers against the errors and crimes of the Gnostics. The epistle of Jude has as little evidence, either external or internal, in its favor as any book of the New Testament."- See Im. Ver., Note. 6. The passage in 2 Peter which is parallel to this in Jude, is found in an epistle which is also "of doubtful authority." 7. "From the change of style in the second chapter, this chapter is the most doubtful portion of the epistle." 8. "By those who admit the genuineness of these epistles, the second chapter of Peter is supposed to have been a quo
tation from some ancient apocryphal book; and that Jude consulted the epistle of Peter when writing his own; and that these writers might not mean to give authority to the doctrine, nor to sanction it in the least; but merely allude to it by way of illustration, and to argue with their readers upon known and allowed principles.' See Im. Ver., Note. 9. The connection in which these passages are found, shows that it is quite possible that the writers might have alluded to the spies, or messengers, who were sent to explore the land of Canaan. See Chapter VI.
But what we are more particularly concerned with now, is the meaning of the word everlasting, here applied to the chains with which these angels were bound. Let it be noticed that Peter simply calls them "chains," without saying anything about their being everlasting. The passage in Jude proves, of itself, that the word everlasting is here used in a limited sense. Mark the phraseology. "In everlasting chains, under darkness, unto "- here is a limitation of it "unto the judgment of the great day." Nothing is said about their being punished endlessly after the judgment spoken of; nor is this judgment said to be in another world. For an explanation of the phrase "judgment of the great day," see Chapter VIII. It is there shown that any time of remarkable visitation of punishment upon the wicked is called in the Scriptures a great and terrible day of the Lord, or something to the same import; and that none of these phrases are used to designate any period of time in a future world.
16. Jude 1: 7. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
In the first place, let us compare this with the parallel passage in
2 Peter 2: 6. And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly.
This passage in Jude is supposed by some to teach the endless misery of the inhabitants of the cities spoken of, in a future state of existence. But we cannot adopt this view of the subject for the following reasons: 1. The scripture writers, both of the Old and New Testament, frequently allude to the destruction of Sodom and