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Some learned men have thought that the style of the second chapter of this Epistle is materially different from that of the other two chapters, and have therefore suspected its Genuineness. I must own that I observe no other difference than that which arises from the difference of the subjects. The subject of the second chapter may surely lead us to suppose, that the pen of the Apostle was guided by a higher degree of Inspiration than when writing in a didactic manner; it is written with the animation and energy of the prophetic style ; but there does not appear to me to be any thing, either in phrase or sentiment, inconsistent with the acknowledged writings of St. Peter.
Bishop Sherlock was of opinion, that in this chapter St. Peter adopted the sentiments and language of some Jewish author, who had described the false teachers of his own times. This conjecture is entirely unsupported by antient authority, and it is in itself very highly improbable.
P A RT 11.
CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SEVENTH.
OF THE FIRST GENERAL EPISTLE OF
I. Genuineness of this Epistle.-II. The Persons to
whom it was addressed.—III. Its Date.-IV. Design and Substance of it.
1. CLEMENT of Rome and Polycarp refer to this Epistle; and Eusebius tells us that it was quoted by Papias. It is expressly mentioned by Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, and Dionysius of Alexandria ; and indeed the unanimous suffrage of antiquity attributes this Epistle to St. John the EvangeJist.(a).
(a) Dr. Macknight, in his Preface to this Epistle, has shewn that there is a great similarity between St. John's Gospel and this Epistle, both in point of sentiment and expression.
II. THERE have been great doubts, both among the ancients and the moderns, concerning the persons to whom it was addressed. Some have supposed that it was written to the inhabitants of Parthia, because St. John is said to have preached the Gospel in that country, but of this there is not sufficient evidence; others have supposed that it was addressed to the churches of Asia, and others, to the Christians of Judæa, because John had preached in both those countries; but as there is no expression of limitation in any part of the Epistle, I am inclined to consider it as written to Christians in general, of every place, and of
III. THERE has also been considerable doubt concerning the date of this Epistle; some have supposed that it was written before, and others after, the destruction of Jerusalem. In the following passage, “ It is the last time; and as we have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many Antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time (b),” the Apostle seems to allude to the approaching dissolution of the Jewish state, and to Christ's predictions (c) concerning the false teachers who were to appear before the destruction of Jerusalem; and
therefore (b) C. 2. v. 18. (c) Matt. c. 24. V. 5, & 24.
therefore I place its date about the year 69. It is impossible to ascertain where it was written, but it seems most probable that it was written in Judæa.
IV. Its principal design was to preserve the Christians in the true faith of Christ, in opposition to the erroneous doctrines which had then begun to make their appearance, and were afterwards maintained by the Gnostics, Docetæ, and Cerinthians.
The Apostle begins by assuring the Christian converts, that he had seen and heard every thing, which he had delivered to them concerning Christ; he declares, that if we walk in light, that is, sincerely endeavour to obey the precepts of the Gospel, the blood of Christ will cleanse us from all unrighteousness; he condemns those, who say that they are guilty of no sin, and recommends confession of sins (d); he asserts the universality of Christ's propitiation; he states that the knowledge of God' consists in the observance of his commandments; he cautions the Christian converts against the love of this world, and against false teachers (C); he points out the love of God for mankind, and thence inculcates the duty of mutual love among men (f); he
(d) C. 1.
(e) C. 2.
(f) C. 3.
urges farther cautions against false teachers, and especially against those who deny that Christ is come in the flesh, that is, who deny the preexistence of Christ, and the incarnation of the Son of God (g); he repeats his admonitions to mutual love (h), and to the observance of God's commandments; he pronounces, that “ the whole world lieth in wickedness,” and that “ God has given us eternal life through his
" Son (i).”
This Epistle has neither inscription in the beginning, nor salutation or benediction at the end ; and indeed it has so little of the epistolary form, that some persons consider it as a treatise rather than a letter.
(8) Some of these early heretics maintained that Christ was not a real man, but a phantom, and that he did not really suffer death; others, that the Son of God was united with Jesus at his baptism, and left him before his crucifixion, (h) C. 4.
(i) C. 5.