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St. Jude tells us, in a prophecy very similar to this of St. Peter, “ Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these;" and so, as we have seen, did Moses, and David, and Isaiah, and all the prophets.
“ But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction."
St. Peter has before him the same “ mystery of ini
. quity,” which St. Paul speaks of; he sees it beginning to work, and marks what will be its end, an absolute denial of that Master, who, according to the common profession of the whole Christian world, bought them with his death, to be “a peculiar people to himself.” But when this corruption shall have attained its utmost pitch, then cometh that swift destruction predicted, as we collect from former prophecies, by the sudden appearance of the Master whom they have denied, from heaven with his mighty angels.
But, as former prophecies told us, great would be the extent of the evil before the judgment burst upon them.
2. “ And many shall follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.”
Hence, it is evident, that the characters here portrayed are not professed deists or infidels; they retain so much of the form of godliness that they are confounded with those that profess the Christian religion, for they evidently bring a scandal upon that religion :
3. “ And through covetousness shall they, with feigned words, make merchandize of you."
I fear the explanation which Dr. Macknight has given of these words is too true to be denied: "In this single sentence there is a clear prediction of the iniquitous practices of those great merchants of souls, the Romish clergy, who have rated all crimes, even the most atrocious, at a fixed price: so that if their doctrine be true, whoever pays the price may commit the crime without hazarding his salvation."
Supposing that gain is godliness," another apostle has made the characteristic of the antichristian apostate, and wherever sacred things are bartered for money, or for worldly honour-wherever religion is made a trade of, and the stewards of the mysteries of God take the charge of the flock" for filthy lucre's sake," there is the spirit of Antichrist. It is upon the Christian nations, full of these abuses, that the day of the Lord comes, "whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not,”or," to whom the punishment, threatened of old, lingereth not, and their damnation," or, "destruction, slumbereth not." God, the apostle proceeds to tell us, who spared not the fallen angels-who spared not the antediluvian world who spared not Sodom and Gomorrah,
' Covetousness is early marked in history as the besetting sin and prevailing temptation that led to the apostasy of the Christian priesthood. "Passing rapidly from a condition of distress and persecution to the summit of prosperity, the church degenerated as rapidly from her ancient purity :"—" COvetousness, especially, became alinost a characteristic vice. Valentinian I., in 370, prohibited the
clergy from receiving the bequests of women; a modification more discreditable than any general law Icould have been: and several of the fathers severely reprobate the prevailing avidity of their contemporaries."
Hallam's View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages, vol. ii. p. 1.
will not spare these corrupters of the faith, and wicked professors of the Gospel, and their judgment will be as signal and as tremendous.
In the tenth verse these destined victims are again designated :
“ But, chiefly," or, “ especially, them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities."
Does not this seem to point out the special character of that particular time when Christ shall appear ? How the abject superstition of the papacy could have led to this spirit of rebellion, which would brook no restraint, and cast off all respect for their constituted rulers, and to God's appointed ministers of justice, might appear difficult to explain. Our forefathers, however, pointed out this spirit in the Papists, whenever the powers of the state opposed their peculiar interest: but, doubtless, we are to take in view the general state of apostate Christendom, in that falling away, when the “man of sin” is revealed. This state of things may not arise exactly at his bidding. As himself is a government, of course it would not : but this would become the character of that Christendom that he had perverted from Christ; and over which, refractory as it might become, he would retain considerable influence to the last. And I cannot but think this spirit (prognostic of the last day) is already gone forth in the Christian nations. It is designated by its admirers as “the love of freedom :" but in the late revolution it developed itself in its true character; and has certainly left a temper and feeling in Christendom, on the consequences of which it is not
easy to calculate. But, from the history of the past, and from certain intimations of prophecy, perhaps there is room to fear, lest the present factious spirit that is abroad, that will no more “ be subject for conscience sake,” will lead to the general establishment, after much disorder and dreadful commotions, it may be, of strong and violent military government: the lawful sceptre despised, the sword will bear rule!
It is not said, we remark, that there is nothing to blame in governments, and in the rulers of the earth, at this eventful era. The very contrary is supposed ; that the holy angels are carrying a complaint against them before God. But the manner in which the enemies of governments conduct their opposition, is what is so strongly animadverted upon ; they respect not the office which is of God, when they would oppose the man. Nay, the eye of God perhaps discerns that it is not the vices nor tyranny of princes that they hate ; but that au
: thority which puts the lawless to shame, and challenges a superiority which the proud are ill disposed to allow.
" Whereas angels, that are greater in power and might,” - Greater in power and in might than the kings and rulers of the earth,
Bring not a railing accusation against them : but these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not, and shall utterly perish in their own corruption."
Respectful submission to the authority of rulers, is a distinguishing character of civilized society ; without this, man becomes a savage- no better than those irra. tional animals, that cannot be tamed to any useful purpose, but must be hunted down and destroyed : and the prophecy seems to say, that this will be much the case with respect to these unreasonable opposers of rulers and of the institutions of civil government.
“ And shall receive the reward of their unrighteousness."
The apostle proceeds to take a view of these apostates, as already existing among the Christian brethren. He shows the “ mystery of iniquity,” which was hereafter to lead to the great “ falling away,” and manifestation of " the man of sin,” and of “the wicked one;" as it had already begun to work in the false, covetous, and licentious members of some Christian churches, which he had in his eye. For, we remark, the same style of language is used by the Spirit of prophecy, when speaking of the apostasy, as when addressing the church or the ministry. It considers it as one and the same organized system, now beginning its antichristian efforts, and never ceasing to carry them on till it is confounded by the actual appearing of the Saviour. Hence, as Christ's ministers were addressed as a body, which was to continue till their Master should arrive ; so are the false teachers, the many Antichrists : and as each faithful individual of the ministry will be present in the day that the Son of Man is revealed ; so, it may be, every leading member of the antichristian apostasy may be among the “ many dead,” that, according to Daniel, at that hour come forth to the resurrection of condemnation.
They that count it pleasure to riot in the daytime, spots are they, and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings, while they feast with you.”