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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.”
As Dr. Macknight explains, “ Deformities in the church, and causes of reproach, living in riot by means of their own corrupt doctrines, when they join you in your love-feasts.”
14. “ Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin, beguiling unstable souls: a heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness," &c.
We know precisely what Balaam's error was. For the love of wealth, which the great of the earth had to bestow, he would have prostituted his sacred character and office. In the great apostasy of the Christian clergy, this, too, was and ever would be a leading cause of defection.
17.“ These are wells without water; clouds that are carried with a tempest," - And let fall no fertilizing showers,
“ To whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever."
A remarkable exposure of the character of those, who for filthy lucre's sake, assume the teacher's office, and obtrude themselves into a service for which they are totally unqualified and unfit. But these same characters are some of them great boasters :
“ For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them that live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption; for of whom a man is overcome, by the same he is brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge
of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome; the latter end is worse with them than the beginning: for it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it has happened unto them according to the true proverb: The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire."
This last passage strongly marks the fall of some, whose creed was pure, and whose principles, to a certain extent, had been efficacious in their moral influence on their lives : but the allurements of a spurious liberty deceive them — or rather betray them, and undeceive
the world, respecting the supposition of any real change or conversion of soul. And we may say of this part of Scripture generally, that it describes the predicted apostasy of the Christian world, as beginning in the interested perversion of sacred institutions; and proceeding to the most undisguised licentiousness and disregard of all authority; till at length, as we read in the following chapter, the true believer, dwelling in the midst of nations enlightened by revelation, is surrounded by the sneers and scoffs of infidels. St. Peter speaks of this last temptation of Christ's church upon earth, as a matter which had often been enforced upon its attention:
“ That ye be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour. Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for, since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creatior."
Chap. iii. 2.
apostle having in his view another passage of Scripture, as many imagine: :-" I will ransom them from the power of the grave," or “hell;" “ I will redeem them from death: 0 death, I will be thy plague; O hell, I will be thy destruction.”*
I would only remark further, that these last observations and the quotation of the apostle fully confirm our exposition of the former part of this revelation, where “ death, the last enemy, is said to be destroyed ;" that it does not mean the destruction of death and the departed state absolutely; so that they no longer keep any of the dead in their custody, which destruction, as we shall learn hereafter, will take place at a very distant period after the glorifying of the righteous; but that the victory here in view is the releasing the redeemed people of Christ from the hand of death and from the place of their abode in the separate state. It is the destruction of death, as the enemy of Christ, and of his redeemed, that is in the view of the prophetic Spirit; and this takes place, not at the judgment of the wicked dead, but at the second coming of Christ to establish his kingdom upon earth. Enemies, in view of that kingdom, are both death and the separate state; the souls and bodies of Christ's people must be released from these, their detainers; and those that have not yet been seized by death must be changed into immortal, incorruptible beings, and put beyond his reach. This is necessary in order to their inheriting the kingdom of God.
And here we should remark, what has often imposed itself on our view, in consulting former prophecies con
Hosea, xiii. 14, &c. See Horsley on Hosea.